Caffeine can prevent memory loss in diabetes

Scientists have discovered how diabetes causes memory loss and how caffeine can prevent this, according researchers from the Center for Neuroscience and Cell Biology of the University of Coimbra in Portugal.

The study published in the journal PloS compared four groups of mice: diabetic or normal mice without or with caffeine equivalent to eight cups of coffee a day in their water.

They found that long-term consumption of caffeine prevented the mice's memory loss. It also diminished the weight gain and high blood glucose levels associated with diabetes.

The researchers also analyzed the hippocampus area of the brain in the diabetic mice. The hippocampus is linked to memory and learning and is often atrophied in diabetics.

They discovered that diabetic mice had abnormalities in the hippocampus region, showing both degeneration of synapses and abnormal increase of the cells surrounding neurons called astrogliosis. Both conditions are known to affect memory.

But when the diabetic mice consumed caffeine in the study, it prevented these abnormalities.

The researchers also discovered that the brain molecule A2AR, one of only two known to respond to caffeine, was high in diabetic animals but normal in those treated with caffeine. This led scientists to conclude that A2AR inhibition protected the animals against synaptic degeneration and memory dysfunction.

The study suggests that diabetes affects memory by causing synaptic degeneration, astrogliosis and increased levels of A2AR. It also suggests that chronic consumption of caffeine may prevent the memory loss and brain degeneration.

Synaptic degeneration and astrogliosis caused by diabetes are the same phenomena that occur in the early stages of severe neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. Further research is needed to determine if chronic caffeine consumption can help patients suffering from those diseases.

“Indeed, the dose of caffeine shown to be effective is just too excessive. All we can take from here is that a moderate consumption of caffeine should afford a moderate benefit, but still a benefit,” said Rodrigo Cunha, lead researcher of the study from the University of Coimbra. “Our ultimate goal is the design of a drug more potent and selective than caffeine itself.”

Source: Ciencia Viva – Agencia Nacional para a Cultura Cientifica e Tecnologica (via AlphaGalileo Foundation)

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