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Caffeine May Benefit Memory

Many older adults may greatly benefit from drinking coffee on a regular basis. A recent study monitoring the memory and thinking processes of older adults has found that all those with higher blood caffeine levels avoided the onset of Alzheimer's disease in the two-to-four years of study follow-up. In addition, coffee appeared to be the major or only source of caffeine for these individuals.

This new study provides the first direct evidence that caffeine/coffee intake is associated with a reduced risk of dementia or delayed onset of dementia. The study involved 124 people between the ages 65 to 88 in Tampa and Miami.

“These intriguing results suggest that older adults with mild memory impairment who drink moderate levels of coffee, about 3 cups a day, will not convert to Alzheimer's disease, or at least will experience a substantial delay before converting to Alzheimer's,” said study lead author Dr. Chuanhai Cao, a neuroscientist at University of South Florida. “The results from this study, along with our earlier studies in Alzheimer's mice, are very consistent in indicating that moderate daily caffeine/coffee intake throughout adulthood should appreciably protect against Alzheimer's disease later in life.”

The study shows this protection probably occurs even in older people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Patients with MCI already experience some short-term memory loss and initial Alzheimer's pathology in their brains. Each year, about 15% of MCI patients progress to full-blown Alzheimer's disease.

“We are not saying that moderate coffee consumption will completely protect people from Alzheimer's disease,” Dr. Cao cautioned. “However, we firmly believe that moderate coffee consumption can appreciably reduce your risk of Alzheimer's or delay its onset.”

Seniors May Need More Vitamin D to Prevent Mobility Difficulties

Older adults who don’t get enough vitamin D either from diet, supplements or sun exposure may be at increased risk of developing mobility limitations and disability, according to new research. Researchers analyzed the association between vitamin D and onset of mobility limitation and disability over six years of follow-up using data from the National Institute on Aging’s Health, Aging, and Body Composition (Health ABC) study. Mobility limitation and disability are defined as any difficulty or inability to walk several blocks or climb a flight of stairs.

“This is one of the first studies to look at the association of vitamin D and the onset of new mobility limitations or disability in older adults,” said lead author Denise Houston, Ph.D., who is with Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

The study included 2,099 men and women between the ages of 70 and 79. Eligible participants reported no difficulty walking one-fourth mile, climbing 10 steps, or performing basic, daily living activities. Vitamin D levels were measured in the blood at the beginning of the study. Occurrence of mobility limitation and disability during follow-up was assessed during annual clinic visits alternating with telephone interviews every six months over six years.

“We observed about a 30% increased risk of mobility limitations for those older adults who had low levels of vitamin D, and almost a two-fold higher risk of mobility disability,” said Houston.

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