Combining two compounds found in coffee can act as therapeutic against Parkinson's disease and Lewy body dementia -- the two progressive and currently incurable diseases associated with brain degeneration, say researchers.
The study, led by a team from the Rutgers University, found that caffeine, which traditionally has been credited as coffee's special protective agent, together with another compound found in coffee beans' waxy coating, slowed down brain degeneration in mice.
The new coffee bean compound called EHT (Eicosanoyl-5-hydroxytryptamide) was found to protect the brains of mice against abnormal protein accumulation associated with Parkinson's disease and Lewy body dementia.
Lewy body dementia is the second most common type of progressive dementia after Alzheimer's disease.
"EHT is a compound found in various types of coffee but the amount varies. It is important that the appropriate amount and ratio be determined so people do not over-caffeinate themselves as that can have negative health consequences," said lead author M. Maral Mouradian, Professor at the varsity.
Prior research has also shown that drinking coffee may reduce the risk of developing Parkinson's disease.
In the study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the team found that EHT and caffeine alone were not effective.
However, when given together, they boosted the activity of a catalyst that helps prevent the accumulation of harmful proteins in the brain.
Current treatments address only the symptoms of Parkinson's disease but do not protect against brain degeneration, according to the study.
Further research is needed to determine the proper amounts and ratio of EHT and caffeine required for protective effect in people, said Mouradian.