Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Here we go again: Coffee could halt Alzheimer’s

So regular coffee drinkers don't get Alzheimer's? First time I've heard that the USA and Europe are Alzheimer's-free zones! Why do they bother publishing this sh*t? They have no sense of perspective whatever. China and Japan (tea-drinking nations) are full of demented oldsters? Certainly not in Japan, which is famous for its many highly functional nonagenerarians and centenarians. And tea is normally drunk quite weak in East Asia, meaning that the drinkers get very little caffeine from it

Three large cups of coffee a day could help to slow the progress of Alzheimer’s disease and even reverse the condition, researchers say. A daily dose of caffeine can suppress the degenerative processes in the brain that can lead to confusion and memory loss, a study in mice suggests. Although drinking coffee has previously been linked to a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s, this is the first study to suggest that caffeine can directly target the disease itself.

Alzheimer’s occurs when sticky clumps of abnormal protein in the brain called beta-amyloid build up to form plaques, impairing cognitive function. But mice with a rodent equivalent of the disease showed a 50 per cent reduction in levels of amyloid protein in their brains after scientists spiked their drinking water with caffeine.

The change was reflected in their behaviour as they developed better memories and quicker thinking. In the study, published today in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, researchers from the University of South Florida studied 55 mice that had been genetically engineered to develop dementia symptoms identical to those of Alzheimer’s as they aged. Before treatment the mice, which were aged 18 to 19 months — about 70 years in human terms — had performed poorly in the memory tests.

Half the animals were given a daily dose of caffeine in their drinking water — equivalent to a human consuming about six espresso shots or 500mg of pure caffeine — while the other half continued to drink ordinary water. By the end of the two-month study, the caffeine-drinking mice were performing far better on tests of memory and thinking than mice given water. Their memories were as sharp as those of healthy older mice without dementia.

The scientists found that when the mice drank caffeinated water their blood levels of beta amyloid protein fell quickly. More importantly, the same effect occurred in the brain. Almost half the abnormal protein previously seen when the brains of Alzheimer’s mice were examined had vanished after two months.

The researchers hope that caffeine could present a safe, inexpensive treatment for dementia. Professor Gary Arendash, a memory and ageing specialist who led the latest research, said that he wished to conduct human patient trials as soon as possible. “The findings provide evidence that caffeine could be a viable treatment for established Alzheimer’s disease and not simply a protective strategy,” he said.

A study in 2002 found that people who consumed caffeine in mid-life were 60 per cent less likely to develop the disease.

About 417,000 people in the UK suffer from Alzheimer’s, and numbers are steadily rising. There is currently no cure and although drugs can help stabilise the condition, they are not widely available on the NHS until patients have advanced-stage disease and their effectiveness is relatively unpredictable from person to person.

Taking 500mg of caffeine in tablet form would be safe for most patients and would have relatively few side-effects, Professor Arendash said, although it is not clear how the dosage would translate from mice to humans.

Rebecca Wood, chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Research Trust, said that it was too early to say whether coffee or caffeine supplements could help Alzheimer’s patients. “With no cure yet, research into treatments that could help people with Alzheimer’s is vital. [But] we need to do more research to find out whether this effect will be seen in people,” she said.


Two or more abortions could more than DOUBLE chances of a premature birth next time

Doubling the odds does get us into the area where a finding needs to be looked at seriously but it must be noted that only a statistical relationship has been established. Causal judgments need more evidence. But that abortions sometimes damage the womb and cervix is a perfectly reasonable inference and such damage could lead to problems in taking a pregnancy to full term

Women who have an abortion could be risking the health of their next baby, it emerged last night. Those who terminate a pregnancy are subsequently more likely to give birth prematurely, with two or more abortions more than doubling the odds. Premature babies are at greater risk of health problems, with one in ten having lung disease, cerebral palsy, blindness or deafness.

Fertility doctors said the study did not prove abortion caused premature births because some of the reasons why women choose to terminate a pregnancy - such as unemployment or money worries - are also linked to early birth. But other experts said the evidence was 'compelling' and insisted women seeking abortions should be warned of the risk.

The data, revealed at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology conference in Amsterdam, comes as abortion rates hit record levels. More than 200,000 women a year in England and Wales choose to terminate pregnancies - second only to the U.S. in the West. The link between abortion and premature birth emerged during a review of dozens studies on pregnancy complications.

Combining the results revealed that having one abortion raised the risk of the woman having her next baby prematurely, which is defined as before 37 weeks, by 20 per cent. The risk of a very premature baby before 34 weeks rose by 50 per cent. Women who had two or more abortions were almost twice as likely to have a premature baby and two and a half times as likely to have one very prematurely.

Dr Robbert van Oppenraaij, of Erasmus University in Rotterdam, said it was not clear what caused the link, suggesting that abortion may harm the womb or create infection. Smoking, drug use, unemployment and low income are also associated with abortion and premature birth.

However, others said it made 'total sense'. Josephine Quintavalle, of the campaign group Comment On Reproductive Ethics, said: 'There's a logic. The body is protecting a healthy baby. By producing a abortion, you destroy that protection and make the cervix - the neck of the womb - more vulnerable. 'And if you make the cervix more vulnerable, you are more at risk of a premature baby. 'You don't need a degree in biology to understand that.'

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service, which carries out almost a third of abortions in Britain, said leaflets it gives patients mention the link to premature birth. Medical director Dr Patricia Lohr said: 'Abortion is extremely safe. When we counsel women, we provide them with information about the potential for a slightly higher risk of miscarriage or early birth.'


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