Coffee producers have three reasons to be pretty happy

Researchers say people should drink four to five cups daily. Photo: A.M. Costa Rica Stock

This is a great year for coffee producers.

Prices for export grade coffee are at the highest point in years, and a family in Dota just sold one lot for $2,000 a quintal.

Now come a report from the University of South Florida that says researchers there have found an as-yet unidentified component of coffee that interacts with the caffeine to protect against Alzheimer’s disease, and they urge people to drink more coffee.

It has been well known that coffee can protect the mind of an older person. The new study may explain why.

Already coffee growers here are basking in a market that has seen commodity prices increase nearly 100 percent over the last year. In part, this is due to bad weather elsewhere. Costa Rican coffee growers had experienced some lean years.

But no longer at the Luis Ricardo Calderón Madrigal coffee operation in Santa María de Dota. One lot of coffee from the Finca la Estrella there just sold for $2,000 a quintal in an online auction run by the Instituto del Café de Costa Rica.

Bidders had their choice of 31 lots in the annual Taza de la Excelencia competition. Bidders were in Japan, Korea and Taiwan. They had samples of the various coffees that were sent to them. The lowest price was $400 a quintal. A quintal is 46 kilos, a bit more than 100 pounds.

The South Florida study found that the interaction between caffeine and the unidentified component boosts blood levels of a critical growth factor that seems to fight off the Alzheimer’s disease process, the university said.

The findings appeared in the early online version of an article to be published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. Using mice bred to develop symptoms mimicking Alzheimer’s disease, the research team presents the first evidence that caffeinated coffee offers protection against the memory-robbing disease that is not possible with other caffeine-containing drinks or decaffeinated coffee, the university reported.

Previous observational studies in humans reported that daily coffee/caffeine intake during mid-life and in older age decreases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, the university said, adding that the researchers’ earlier studies in Alzheimer’s mice indicated that caffeine was likely the ingredient in coffee that provides this protection because it decreases brain production of the abnormal protein beta-amyloid, which is thought to cause the disease.

Coffee is safe for most Americans to consume in the moderate amounts of from four to \five cups a day that appear necessary to protect against Alzheimer’s disease, said the university. The researchers previously reported this level of coffee/caffeine intake was needed to counteract the brain pathology and memory impairment in Alzheimer’s mice, it added, noting that the average American drinks one and a half to two cups of coffee a day, considerably less than the amount the researchers believe protects against Alzheimer’s

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