Can caffeine protect against Alzheimer's?

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By Kathleen Fackelmann, USA TODAY
Connie Lesko’s not looking for the jolt that a cup of hot java offers.
Instead, she’s hoping new research that shows caffeine may protect against Alzheimer’s pans out: The 56-year-old from Wimauma, Fla., has two parents with this incurable disease.

“I’ve never been much of a coffee drinker,” she says. “But now I’m thinking “” what the heck “” I’ll have a cup.”

Lesko and others are betting on research suggesting that caffeine will offer protection not just against Alzheimer’s, but also against Parkinson’s. Together these degenerative brain diseases affect about 6 million people in the USA. Cases of both diseases are expected to explode in the next few decades.

“Boomers are coming of age, and large numbers of them will develop neurodegenerative diseases,” says Zaven Khachaturian, president and CEO of the Lou Ruvo Brain Institute in Las Vegas and the former director of the Alzheimer’s unit at the National Institute on Aging.

The coming epidemic has fueled a search for drugs and other interventions that might slow the onset of these diseases, he says. If research by Gary Arendash and others holds up, boomers might be able to get some protection simply by enjoying an espresso.

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