Research wrap-up #1

Slide1Late last year I asked a favour of a younger colleague and now friend, Dr Ian McDonald if he would consider writing a monthly blog with a precis of the latest in research for our Dementia Alliance International blog.

Luckily for DAI, he has not only agreed to do this for us, but is donating his time and expertise to our organisation.

Dr McDonald works for Alzheimer’s Australia based in the national office in Canberra, write his own science blog, and also hase a radio program. Thank you Ian, and our very sincere appreciation for your assistance and considerable generosity and research expertise.

January 1st 2015: dementia research wrap-up

By: Dr Ian McDonald, Science Communicator, Alzheimer’s Australia

Hi all, Kate Swaffer asked me to write a regular column for the Dementia Alliance International blog which gives a short monthly wrap-up of what is happening in the dementia research sector. So here is my first edition for January 2015 – Enjoy!

A recent report released by the Institute for Scientific Information on Coffee suggests that drinking 2-3 cups of coffee each day can reduce your risk of dementia by up to 20%. While this research attracted a considerable amount of media attention, evidence supporting this claim isn’t conclusive. In fact, the last sentence of the report reads:

“Epidemiological studies have suggested that there may be an association between moderate coffee consumption and a reduced risk of developed Alzheimer’s, however further research is required to fully understand the nature of this relationship.”

So I’ll leave that one with you to ponder. While consumption of coffee itself is unlikely to do harm, per se, it is important to note that there is also a growing body of evidence which highlights the risks of dementia associated with coffee drinking, including high sugar intake and lack of sleep.

Another intriguing study has suggested that ‘short people’ have a higher risk of dementia over ‘tall people’. This interesting claim was predominately based on the fact that shorter people have a lower production of growth hormones, which are believed to play an important role in brain function. Another study has suggested that adult asthma is linked to dementia onset. This claim was related to a condition known as ‘chronic hypoxia’ (where key organs are deprived of oxygen). The researchers suggest that those people with chronic hypoxia, can have abnormal synthesis of neurotransmitters, brain inflammation and blood-brain barrier dysfunction, resulting in brain cells not functioning properly

Finally to keep on the theme of dementia risk reduction, an Australian review article recently looked at whether computerised brain-training can decrease your risk of dementia and improve brain function. After reviewing 51 trials that involved over 5000 participants, they concluded that ‘computerised brain-training’ is only modestly effective at improving cognitive performance in healthy older adults. Australian researchers are now currently conducting more research in this area.

I look forward to digesting the latest dementia research with you, and encourage anyone who might be interested in finding out more to sign up to receive updates of my regular blog at and/or read the articles in full.

Dr lan McDonald is the Research Communications and Engagement Coordinator for Alzheimer’s Australia. One of his major roles includes writing and sourcing content for a fortnightly newsletter called ‘Dementia News’ which sets out to explain and discuss the latest dementia research. He also produces a fortnightly podcast talking with researchers and community supporters in the field of dementia. His blog and podcast can be found at Another aspect of his role is to promote the work of the Alzheimer’s Australia Dementia Research Foundation, which is the research arm of Alzheimer’s Australia and provides support and grants to early career researchers in the field of dementia.

 Prior to working for Alzheimer’s Australia, Dr McDonald has worked at the CSIRO and the Australian National University in administration, communication and education roles. In 2012, he was awarded a PhD through the University of Queensland in the field of reproductive immunology. Dr McDonald is also a prominent member of the Australian Science Communicators, being on both national and local committees and also presents on a science show most Sunday mornings called Fuzzy Logic

Editor: Kate Swaffer
Copyright: Dementia Alliance International and Dr Ian McDonald 2015