Sunday, October 30, 2011

Update on Coffee, Vitamin D, and your Brain

Coffee – Mood - MRSA! A recent Harvard study showed that over a 10 year study period, women who drank 2-4 cups of coffee a day had a 15-20% lower risk of depression than women drinking one cup a day or less. The researchers suggested that consistent use of caffeine may have long term effects on the brain, binding to receptors for brain chemicals associated with mood elevation.

A new study from the Medical University of South Carolina showed that hot tea or coffee may give a 50% reduction in the likelihood of carrying MRSA (methicillin- resistant Staphylococcus aureus) inside the nose. About 1.4% of over 5000 people tested carried MRSA in their noses.. MRSA can cause serious problems when the bacteria come in contact with an open skin wound, and in people with weakened immune systems. Compounds in hot tea and coffee seem to have volatile antimicrobial compounds that reach the nose in vapor form. Cold coffee and tea do not have this effect. More research is needed here, but the news is hopeful!

Vitamin D: Take your Vitamin D supplements with food – a study from the Cleveland Clinic showed that this fat soluble vitamin is better absorbed with the largest meal of the day, which is likely to contain the most fat.. New studies show that newborns low in Vitamin D are at higher risk of lung infections, breast cancer patients low in D may have more aggressive tumors, and people with low D levels are at higher risk of developing diabetes. If possible, have a blood test for 25-hydroxyvitamin D, and aim for a level of 40ng/ml or higher. As winter is coming, sun exposure will not boost your level at our latitude. Most people can safely supplement with 1000 IU of D daily, or more if deficient. .

Alzheimer’s Disease: An epidemiologic study from UCSF looked at data involving hundreds of thousands of participants from many countries. In the US, the biggest modifiable risk factors for dementia are – in descending order - physical inactivity, depression, smoking, mid-life hypertension, midlife obesity, low education and diabetes. These risk factors are associated with up to 54% of Alzheimer’s cases in the US. Researchers said that this data suggests that simple lifestyle changes, such as increasing physical activity and quitting smoking, could have a big impact on preventing dementia. They caution that their conclusions are based on the assumption that there is a causal connection between each risk factor and Alzheimer’s, which is being investigated in various laboratories. Another study from the Neuroscience Center at the School of Medicine at Louisiana State University showed that DHA – a component of fish oil – is concentrated in the nervous system and plays a key role in vision, neuroprotection, successful aging and memory. It is anti-inflammatory and as such may help with pain, heart disease and many other ailments. DHA is believed to lower the risk of Alzheimer’s, macular degeneration in the eye, Parkinson’s disease and other brain disorders. Both DHA and EPA (a related omega-3 fatty acid) are found in coldwater fatty fish and fish oil, and both are essential for brain function. If you are not familiar with the benefits of fish oil, here’s a good website at the University of Maryland:

That’s it for this week – in summary – coffee can be really helpful as well as enjoyable in amounts that do not interfere with sleep; take your Vitamin D with a meal containing fat, and prevent dementia with a daily walk, not smoking, and taking fish oil.
Sadja Greenwood, MD, MPH