Prevent dementia AND reduce skin cancer? Yep. Here’s how…

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There is one thing you can drink every single day (multiple times a day) that has now been proven to not only prevent dementia but also reduce your skin cancer risk.

It’s lovely.

It’s warm.

It’s invigorating.

It’s coffee!

Now, I know caffeinated coffee is addictive and I can say for sure I don’t feel my best when I am in a cycle of “needing” coffee to wake me up each morning.

However, let me tell you about two recently released medical studies that show the encouraging results of drinking caffeinated coffee every day and you can decide how you feel about it.

Alzheimers runs in my family, so I am extremely aware (and keep on top of the medical research surrounding) how to support brain health and decrease Alzehimers progression.

I’ve already blogged about the best foods you can eat for brain health  as well as steps you can take for Alzheimers prevention.  And now we can add this important finding:

 

A study just published in the June 2012 issue of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease shows consuming coffee (and lots of it!) leads to a 100% chance of avoiding progression to dementia.

 

What?!?! YES. 100% prevention of dementia progression.

 

Now I’ve followed medical literature for my entire adult life, I even worked at the National Cancer Institute in a research lab as an undergrad and I can tell you first hand how many times you get results close to 100%. Never. That’s how often.

Yet this study followed 124 patients that were 65 years old and over and found that of those patients who had caffeine plasma levels of 1200 ng/mL or greater, NOT ONE progressed into dementia during the 4 year study period. Not one single one. 

Whereas for patients with lower caffeine plasma levels, half of them progressed to dementia in that time period.

 

So 100% protection against progressive dementia? I think that requires some deep thinking

– especially in families with a family history of dementia and Alzheimers.

 

Unfortunately, the amount of coffee required to reach these blood levels is between 3 to 5 cups of coffee a day — that’s a LOT!

The average American drinks between 1 to 2 cups a day, which is not sufficient to reach this protective threshold of 1200 ng/mL of caffeine in the blood plasma.

I know that if I drank that much coffee, I would have no hope of sleeping ever again. Yet… 100% protection against progressive dementia… that’s incredible. I truly believe if a person shows signs of mild cognitive impairment, it would be part of an important and completely reasonable treatment plan to encourage consumption of 3 cups of coffee a day.

 
If that wasn’t enough, maybe this will spice things up even more:

Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer and it is growing so quickly (about 80% of all new cancer diagnoses) that the prevalence of this form of cancer is soon to be equivalent to all other cancers combined.

 

A study following more than 110,000 participants found that again — 3 cups of coffee a day was the magic number — reducing the incidence of the most common malignant tumor on earth by 17%. That’s millions and millions of skin cancers potentially prevented.

Sadly, it did not appear to have a protective benefit against other skin cancers, however (melanoma and squamous cell carcinomas rates were unchanged.)

Caffeine has long been known to trigger apoptosis — increasing the skin’s ability to clear away old and damaged cells, thus sloughing off precancerous and cancerous cells that are no longer healthy.

But this study is important in understanding why… because it is the first of its kind to show that caffeinated coffee reproduced this health benefit but decaffeinated coffee did not — meaning it’s not the antioxidants in the coffee (as long hypothesized) but the caffeine itself.

Researchers found this protective effect was shown no matter what the caffeine source (coffee, tea, chocolate, cola) but was not apparent in decaffeinated tea and coffee.

Absolutely without a doubt I don’t want any of my beloved readers consuming 3 cups of soda a day…. but 3 cups of coffee?

In a family that has an intense history of both skin cancer AND Alzheimers, it’s got me re-thinking my pledge to stick to one cup of coffee a day or less.

What about you?

Is 3 cups a reachable goal, or do the side effects of caffeine addiction have you hesitant too? Leave me a comment below, I’d love to hear!

xoxo, Laura

14 Responses to “Prevent dementia AND reduce skin cancer? Yep. Here’s how…”

  1. Linda Smith

    Laura,

    This is great news for me! I average 5 cups a day and as long as I drink it before noon it doesn’t affect my sleep. In fact, I am able to take a 20 minute power nap and fall deeply asleep when I need to.

    Love your website and all the great information you share. I have mentioned your Earthing program to several friends and we are all seeing and feeling results from coming into direct contact with our beautiful Mother.

    Namaste,

    Linda Smith

    • Laura Koniver, MD

      Hi Linda! Yay! 5 cups was in the recommended daily range so that’s great that you can drink so much and still sleep well! I’m also so thrilled that you are telling your friends about Earthing — you rock! xoxo, Laura

  2. Elaina

    Laura,

    What great news. I love coffee, and definitely could see myself drinking it more, if there wasn’t that one other issue. Unfortunately, I have regular migraines and studies showed less caffeine helps to reduce migraines. Ever since I stopped drinking coffee, it seemed to have gotten better, at least they are not as strong when they come. I do drink green tea though, which has caffeine. Hopefully that might help to reduce the Alzheimer and skin cancer risk.

    • Laura Koniver, MD

      Oh Elaina, I am sorry about your migraines — they can be so horrible and really interfere with life, so I 100% agree to keep your caffeine intake low… I’m glad you found that it helped you to stop coffee! The amount of caffeine in green tea isn’t enough to reach threshhold blood plasma unless you drink something like 12 or more cups a day — in which case I think that would inflame your migraines, so I would just focus on what works for you in the here and now and just keep these studies in the back of your mind for future reference… xoxoxo, Laura

  3. Ruth

    Hi,
    If I drank that much coffee I would have to be scraped off the ceiling – I get so jittery – not to mention having atrial fib when I have too much caffeine. You do mention chocolate and tea as well so I will try to up the caffeine intake so long as the side effects remain manageable. How much of those would be equivalent to 3 coffees?
    I currently think I have MCI and am due for an MRI soon. I had white matter changes on an MRI some years ago and newer research shows that this can be a precursor to dementia.
    I work in a psychogeriatric mental health unit where half the population has dementia with BPSD and it scares me greatly that I could end up like these poor souls.
    Thanks for the info – if it could prevent progression I will definitely give it a try.
    Ruth

    • Laura Koniver, MD

      Ruth — me too. My sleep is affected by the caffeine so I am just keeping it in my back pocket for “some day down the road” if MCI (Mild Cognitive Impair, for other readers…) crops up! Thank you so much for your comment — bless you in the work that you do! xoxo, Laura

  4. Sharon Taylor

    This is the best news I’ve had in a while. I’ve heard so many bad things about coffee and caffeine. I feel better when I drink coffee in the morning. And now I can not only drink it, but drink more of it and not only drink guilt-free, but knowing I am actually taking care of myself! THANK YOU!

  5. Trish May

    Hi Miss Laura, I love coffee, but about the last 10 years have developed SVT, caffeine is one of my triggers. So when I want coffee, it has been Decaff for me. Are the benefits the same?
    Thoroughly enjoy your blogs, posts, all the info on “grounding” Thanx for caring about your patients, may God Bless, tm

    • Laura Koniver, MD

      Hi Trish! I’m sorry to say it seems to be the caffeine — decaf coffee was studied in the skin cancer research and was not effective. It wasn’t specifically studied in the dementia study BUT the protective benefits were only found with high blood caffeine levels, which decaf won’t get you. I’m sorry! BUT!!! Just protect yourself in other ways — by eating brain protective foods (I link to a post where I go into detail about that in the above) and sun protective measures such as avoiding peak sun, wearing a hat/sunglasses, and staying hydrated, among other things!! There is still lots you can do for a healthy brain and healthy skin! Thanks so much for your comment… xoxo, Laura

  6. Julia Padgett

    Laura, what does this mean in practical terms? Are you saying if people drink 3-5 cups of coffee per day they have a 0% chance of having dementia? My best friend has a strong family history of Alzheimer’s and I would love to give her this information. It just seems too good to be true, you know? She already loves coffee anyway, so she would be so thrilled.

    • Laura Koniver, MD

      Hi Julia! Practically speaking this study did show that people with this level of caffiene intake has ZERO PROGRESSION of dementia — if they had mild cognitive impair (MCI,) they did not progress to dementia for the 4 years they were followed in this study. So I would say yes it prevents PROGRESSION but more studies would be need to see if it totally prevents the appearance of MCI in the first place — I suspect it does. I think it would be reasonable to hold off until one is given a diagnosis of MCI (or notices these symptoms appearing in a spouse, parent, etc…) and to then use coffee intake to prevent further progression. That’s the research as it stands now… although with so many other studies proving caffeine helps the brain in other ways (wards off depression in females, for example) I would venture to say starting the coffee earlier if there is a strong family history would be a good thing! Hope that helps… thanks for your question! xoxo, Laura

  7. Marie

    In my younger days, I used to drink several cups of coffee a day, until I found myself waking up every morning with a pounding headache until I’d have that first cup of coffee. I switched to decaf at that point. These days, I drink one nice cup of cappuccino each morning, and when I’m around Italian friends, will often have several espressos a day, but they don’t have as much caffeine and don’t affect me the same way. I’m wondering how to figure out how to get that equivalent amount of caffeine in some other way. I do eat a few small square of very dark chocolate every night after dinner – “our daily medicine” – and also drink one tall glass of iced tea a day. There’s no history of dementia in our family, but this is certainly good to know!