You won’t believe what happened this morning

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When I got to the office this morning, several of my employees were in a state of near-panic…

I couldn’t imagine what might have happened… and I was alarmed.

Turns out, the coffee maker was on the fritz.

Coffee is the “drug” of choice for many of the people on my staff. And they’re not alone…

An astounding 80% of Americans use the caffeine in coffee to boost their energy. The buzz helps them wake up every morning and gets their day going.

And older adults drink coffee more than anyone else. In fact, in a survey by the National Coffee Association, 20% of people over 64 said they would rather give up sex than coffee!

I wouldn’t go that far…

But it’s true that caffeine in coffee packs a wallop. And when I was trekking through the Amazon rainforest a few years back, I found an even better source of caffeine. I’ll tell you about it in a minute.

But first, there’s another good reason for older folks to get some caffeine every day. It’s not just the jolt. We’ve known for a while that caffeine may protect your brain from the ravages of dementia.

Studies show:

  • two to three cups of coffee a day cut rates of cognitive impairment by 26% over 10 years.1
  • three cups of coffee a day cut the risk of mental decline by more than 50%.2
  • three to five cups of coffee a day slash the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s by 65%. 3

Up till now we didn’t know why coffee keeps your mind sharp over the years. But a new study from Indiana University gives us one answer. It identified 24 compounds — including caffeine — that may boost an enzyme in the brain to protect against dementia.4

The enzyme is called NMNAT2. It plays two roles in the brain. It guards neurons from stress. It also acts like a “chaperone.” By that I mean it fights against “misfolded proteins,” called tau. Those are the proteins that collect in the brain as “plaques” as you age.

High levels of tau proteins have been linked to neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s. And brains with tau also produce lower levels of NMNAT2.

In the new study, researchers injected high tau mice with caffeine. It increased their NMNAT2 enzyme to healthy levels and improved their memory.

Mainstream doctors scoff at the idea that coffee or caffeine can guard your brain against dementia and Alzheimer’s. They are waiting for Big Pharma to come up with a cure. And there has been no progress on that front in decades.

I believe that food and nutrition are powerful ways to protect your brain. And if you love coffee don’t worry about drinking two, three or even four cups a day to stay sharp. Just be careful about WHEN you drink it.

You see, a shot of caffeine stimulates your adrenal glands to release the stress hormone cortisol. That’s your fight-or-flight hormone. If you drink caffeine all day your body stays in a steady state of high alert. And that can take a real toll…

Studies show that over time, chronically high cortisol lowers your immunity. It makes you anxious and disrupts your sleep. Your food cravings spike and weight gain increases. It accelerates the aging process and kills your sex drive.

I advise my patients to drink coffee at the times that support your body’s natural cortisol rhythms. Your body releases cortisol in the morning to get you moving. Drinking coffee in the early morning supports your body’s natural rhythm.

But as the day wears on, your cortisol levels naturally decrease. Switch to decaf coffee after noon to keep your body aligned with its natural cycle.

And there is a better source of caffeine…

Herbal guarana works just like coffee to wake you up. But unlike coffee it keeps you alert and energetic all day — without the jitters.

I first tried guarana on a long trek through the Peruvian jungle. After 18 hours and 15 miles over rugged terrain my mind was still crystal clear. I didn’t feel at all fatigued or worn out.

Unlike coffee, guarana’s caffeine is bound together with healthy fatty acids. You get a gradual release of caffeine and no coffee jitters.

You can buy guarana powder in health food stores and online. I’ve even added it to some of my products. But guarana is powerful. I recommend limiting your dose to about 5 mg per day.

Since the powder is bitter, it’s best to mix it into a sweet citrus drink with a strong flavor. I like grapefruit or pineapple juice. You can also add it to smoothies or yogurt.

Guarana is safe. But it may have blood-thinning effects. Check with your doctor if you’re taking aspirin or prescription blood thinners like Warfarin or Plavix.

To Your Good Health,

Al Sears, MD

Al Sears, MD, CNS


1. Driscoll I, Shumaker SA, Snively BM et al. “Relationships Between Caffeine Intake and Risk for Probable Dementia or Global Cognitive Impairment: The Women’’s Health Initiative Memory Study.” J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2016;71(12):1596-1602.
2. Ritchie, K., et al, “The neuroprotective effects of caffeine: A prospective study (the Three City Study),” Neurology 2007;69(6):536-45.
3. Eskelinen MH, Kivipelto M. “Caffeine as a protective factor in dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.” J Alzheimers Dis. 2010;20(suppl 1):S167-S174.
4. Yousuf O. Ali, Gillian Bradley, and Hui-Chen Lu. “Screening with an NMNAT2-MSD platform identifies small molecules that modulate NMNAT2 levels in cortical neurons.” Scientific Reports 7, Article number: 43846 (2017) doi:10.1038/srep43846.

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