Study Shows Decaf Coffee May Benefit Your Brain

If you have type 2 diabetes and you’ve made the switch from regular to decaf coffee, you could actually be benefiting your brain, according to researchers from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

Researchers have long known that diabetes can cause problems with brain function.  Diabetes results when the body is not able to correctly regulate the amount of sugar or glucose in the blood.  This happens because the body does not have enough insulin or is not able to effectively use the insulin that is present.  Insulin is a hormone that is necessary to trigger cells to accept glucose from the blood.  Glucose is used by the cells as a major source of energy.  When insulin is not available or when cells are resistant to insulin and cannot use it correctly, the cells become starved for energy and excess glucose builds up in the blood.

When brain cells become starved for energy, brain function, and particularly memory, can be affected.  Some studies indicate that excess sugar in the blood causes brain tissue to become inflamed which in turn causes the blood vessels in the brain to be constricted. This can cause brain tissue to atrophy and lead to brain function impairment.   Portions of the brain involved in decision-making, language, verbal memory, and complex tasks seem most likely to be affected.   Brain dysfunction caused by diabetes is also a known risk factor for dementia and other brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease.

The Mount Sinai School research team explored whether decaffeinated coffee could impact how the body is able to use insulin and whether decaf coffee could help reduce insulin resistance and improve the way glucose is used in the brain in mice with type 2 diabetes. The team gave a decaf coffee supplement to the mice for five months and tracked their brains’ responses. They found that in mice, decaf coffee helped the brain use glucose more effectively which provided more energy for cells in the brain.

Research team leader Guilio Maria Pasinetti, MD, PhD, and Professor of Neurology and Psychiatry at Mount Sinai School of Medicine said, "This is the first evidence showing the potential benefits of decaffeinated coffee preparations for both preventing and treating cognitive decline caused by type 2 diabetes, aging, and/or neurodegenerative disorders."

Although many people are advised not to drink coffee due to the increased cardiovascular risks caused by caffeine, the team was encouraged to find benefits from decaffeinated coffee.  They look forward to further studies to see if the same benefits can be achieved in humans as were found in mice.

Denise DeWitt is a freelance writer for



Science Daily. Decaffeinated Coffee May Help Improve Memory Function and Reduce Risk of Diabetes. Web. March 5, 2012.

Diabetes Forum. Diabetes Contributes To Brain Dysfunction. Web. March 5, 2012.

The Diabetic News. Study: Insulin resistance is Assocaited with inflammatory Processes that lead to Cortical Atrophy and Brain Dysfunction. Web. March 5, 2012.

Science Direct. Diabetes Mellitus and Neurocognitive Dysfunction. C.M. Ryan. Web. March 5, 2012.

Society for Neuroscience. Diabetes, the Brain, and Cognition. Web. March 5, 2012.

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