BBC News is reporting this morning that the caffeine in coffee may hold the answer to Alzheimer’s. It’s no secret that Derek and I love our brewed beans, but the conclusions drawn from this study–or rather from the article referencing the study–are misleading at best.
The simple model for the experiment followed the progress of two groups of laboratory mice that had all shown clear signs of memory impairment. Half of the mice received plain water while the other half received water plus caffeine.
Two months later, the plain water group showed little if any change while those receiving the caffeine boost exhibited notable improvement in memory function. Wow–contact the pharmaceutical companies and start handing out caffeine pills to all folks over 60, right?
Wrong. Here’s why–note what the article says about the study parameters:
The mice were given the equivalent of five 8 oz (227 grams) cups of coffee a day – about 500 milligrams of caffeine.
The researchers say this is the same as is found in two cups of “specialty” coffees such as lattes or cappuccinos from coffee shops, 14 cups of tea, or 20 soft drinks.
The equivalent of FIVE cups of coffee? In ONE mouse? Generally, medicine and/or nutritionals are administered by WEIGHT. The more you weigh, the more you get. Mice weigh a few ounces. Humans, well–we weigh a bit more. Let’s see–if it takes 100 mg per ounce in a mouse, then a human of one hundred pounds would require 160,000 mg of caffeine–or 160 grams! (16 ounces per pound –> 16 X 100 mg X 100 pounds).
According to the study’s own math (100 mg caffeine per cup), that’s 1600 cups of coffee–PER DAY! And that’s for a skinny person of only one hundred pounds!
Mind you, Dr Gary Arendash, the study’s leader, isn’t advocating that we consume gallons of coffee–just that we take 500 mg of caffeine or its equivalent per day. I’d hazard a guess that many who now suffer from Alzheimer’s consumed coffee, tea, or cola on a regular basis anyway. Why didn’t the caffeine protect them?
So what does this report tell us? Two things: One–a single study doesn’t a cure make, and Two–media love to write ‘cure-all’ headlines.
Maybe the next study should include donuts with that coffee, huh?
Call me crazy, but that sounds like a lot for any heart to take–much less older hearts. I’ll stick to one cup a day–as usual.