In addition to brightening our morning and the whole day, coffee has shown numerous health benefits: First, caffeine content should improve wakefulness and memory in the short term – but studies suggest that coffee may have this long-term protective effect in the brain as well.

Drinking coffee was previously associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, and scientists now say they have an idea of ​​why. It turns out that phenylindanes – chemical compounds that form during the brewing process – inhibit the growth of proteins associated with degenerative brain diseases. And the darker the roast, the more of these protections are in every cup.

For the new study, published in Limits in NeuroscienceResearchers at the Krembil Brain Institute in Toronto analyzed the chemical components of three different Starbucks Via instant coffees: Light Roast, Dark Roast and Decaffeinated Dark Roast. Then, they exposed extracts of each sample to two types of proteins – amyloid beta and tau – which are known to be the hallmarks of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. Studies have shown that these proteins form clots in the brain as the disease progresses (known as amyloid plaques and tau protein tangles).

CONNECTION: Why Hot Coffee Can Be Healthier Than Cold Brew

All three coffee extracts prevented the "clumping" of these proteins, suggesting that something in America's beloved morning brew might protect against the disease's progression. And since the researchers found no difference in the effectiveness of the regular versus the decaf brew, they found that this was likely Not the caffeine that offers these benefits.

However, they noticed more inhibitory effects on the two dark roasts compared to the light roast. This prompted the researchers to think about phenylindane – compounds that were formed by the degradation of acids during coffee roasting and that are largely responsible for the bitter taste of the coffee.

Phenylindans are found in higher concentrations in coffees with longer roast times such as dark roast and espresso. The authors write in their article that they have "surprisingly strong antioxidant activity," but their ability to interact with amyloid and tau proteins has not been previously reported.

In further laboratory studies, they found that a phenylindane mixture actually prevented disease-related protein clumping; indeed that was it just investigated compound with effects on amyloid and tau proteins. For tau proteins, it showed stronger levels of inhibition than any other compound tested.

LINK: Here's what happened when I drank coffee for a week

Given that both roasted coffee extracts showed stronger protein inhibitions than light roasts, the authors suggested that the phenylindane component of coffee was "largely responsible" for this effect. (And good news for caffeine-free drinkers: because the decaffeination process is taking place In front In the roasting process, the authors assume that it has no influence on the phenylindane level.)

However, this does not necessarily mean that everyone should drink espresso or roast the coffee beans extra dark. According to research writer Donald Weaver, co-director of the Krembil Brain Institute, research is still tentative and it is still not known exactly how these compounds act in the human body. (In addition, other studies have shown that lighter roasts have a higher level different useful compounds, so it can still be an improvement to overall health.)

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Weaver said in a press release that he hopes this research will lead to further studies on phenylindane and possibly even the development of drugs that could be used to treat neurodegenerative diseases. He also said that it is good to know that coffee naturally has good qualities for you, even if there is not enough evidence to drink it solely for these reasons.

"What this study does is to take the epidemiological evidence and try to refine it and show that there are actually components in coffee that help fight cognitive decline," Weaver said. "It's interesting, but do we suggest that coffee is a cure? Absolutely not."

Experts say that the best way to age your brain is to follow a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and sleep well. And if it turns out that even a daily cup of Joe fits in with this plan, we're definitely in favor.

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