We know that just enough coffee can perk you up, and too much coffee can keep you up. Now, scientists are saying that moderate amounts of coffee can improve your cognitive abilities.
People who consistently drink one to two cups of coffee per day throughout their lives and don’t regularly drink more than that significantly decrease their chances of developing mild cognitive impairment (MCI), according to researchers.
For the study, which was published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, researchers tested mice to see how caffeine affected their brains. They discovered that caffeine might protect the brain from a build-up of amyloid protein plaque, the sticky substance found in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease, as well as reduce damage caused by the plaque. The team also looked at the coffee consumption of 1,445 Italians aged 65 to 84 and tracked the participants’ mental health for a median of 3.5 years.
Lead author Dr. Vincenzo Solfrizzi says the findings show that further studies are needed on the subject – studies with more subjects and longer follow-up periods that could go a long way toward helping people prevent Alzheimer’s and dementia through diet.
Previous studies have shown that moderate amounts of coffee consumed over long periods of time can enhance memory performance, particularly when it comes to repetitive, monotonous tasks; others have suggested that consuming large amounts of coffee can reduce performance due to over-stimulation. Both conclusions agree with those of Solfrizzi et al. The European Food Safety Authority has also cited research showing that 75 mg of caffeine consumption per day improves alertness.
Solfrizzi and his colleagues warned that some people, particularly the elderly, should not suddenly start drinking coffee or increase the amount of coffee they habitually drink, as this actually increases the chance of developing MCI. The team of scientists found that the rate of MCI rose over time for seniors who increased their daily intake by a cup of coffee or more daily. Those individuals were found to have an MCI rate of about one-and-a-half times higher than participants who were long-time, moderate coffee drinkers whose intake didn’t increase.
“Older individuals who never or rarely consumed coffee and those who increased their coffee consumption habits had a higher risk of developing MCI” compared to moderate coffee drinkers, one of the study’s authors said.
The same study also found that regularly drinking coffee lowers one’s chances of developing Type 2 diabetes. Data suggests that moderate caffeine intake might boost insulin sensitivity and thus cut the risk for the disease, which has long been linked to memory problems.
Julie Fidler is a freelance writer, legal blogger, and the author of Adventures in Holy Matrimony: For Better or the Absolute Worst. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two ridiculously spoiled cats. She occasionally pontificates on her blog.