According to new research, the potential benefits of caffeine for maintenance of proper brain functioning has only recently begun to be appreciated. Proper brain functioning? Those of us who stumble blindly, mumbling unintelligibly, from bed to coffee pot first thing in the morning already appreciate the effect of caffeine on proper brain functioning–but the benefits now seem to be further-reaching than the need to shake off the morning cobwebs.
In a study just published in a special supplement to the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, researchers explored the potential benefits of caffeine and found substantial evidence that it may be protective against the cognitive decline seen in dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
For the study (“Therapeutic Opportunities for Caffeine in Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Neurodegenerative Diseases”) a group of international experts looked into the effects of caffeine on the brain. The result was a collection of original studies exploring a number of topics ranging from molecular targets of caffeine, neurophysiological modifications and adaptations, to the potential mechanisms underlying the behavioral and protective actions of caffeine in distinct brain pathologies. Here’s a brief summary of what they found:
1. Caffeine has a positive effect on cognition, memory performance, and the ability to complete complex tasks.
2. An inverse association between regular caffeine consumption and the incidence of Parkinson’s disease was found–in other words, caffeine looks to be protective against Parkinson’s disease.
3 . The consumption of moderate amounts of caffeine was seen to decrease the cognitive decline associated with aging, as well as the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease.
4. Caffeine prevented motor deficits, normalized brain function, and prevented brain degeneration.
Other studies have shown:
5. Caffeine improves a sense of well-being, happiness, energy, alertness and sociability.
6. Caffeine enhances aerobic endurance.
7. Consumption of coffee can lead to a decreased risk of Type 2 diabetes.
8. Coffee has a whopping amount of antioxidants–on average, Americans receive 1,299 milligrams of antioxidants from their 1.64 cups of daily coffee. The closest competitor was tea at 294 milligrams. Rounding out the top five sources were bananas, 76 milligrams; dry beans, 72 milligrams; and corn, 48 milligrams.
Concerns about coffee?
Some of the concerns about coffee include heart disease hypertension, cancer, and leaching of calcium.
An analysis of 10 studies of more than 400,000 people found no increase in heart disease among daily coffee drinkers, whether their coffee came with caffeine or not. A study of 155,000 nurses, women who drank coffee with or without caffeine for a decade were no more likely to develop hypertension than non-coffee drinkers. An international review of 66 studies last year, scientists found coffee drinking had little if any effect on the risk of developing pancreatic or kidney cancer. Coffee and tea drinkers who consume the currently recommended amount of calcium need not worry about caffeine’s effect on their bones. (And of course, if you have concerns about coffee, be sure to check with your doctor.)