A cup of joe is a regular part of many people’s daily routines, but beyond helping us wake up, could that coffee be offering other benefits? A recent study looked at the association of caffeine intake and cognitive impairment and dementia for 6,497 women 65 and better over a 10-year period.
Taking data from the Women’s Health Initiative Memory study, these researchers divided the study participants into low and high consumers of caffeine. The low-caffeine group consumed an average of 64 mg of caffeine per day, equivalent to two-thirds a cup of coffee or two colas daily. The high-caffeine group consumed an average of 261 mg per day, equivalent to just over three cups of coffee.
When they compared these groups, the researchers found that the high-caffeine group had a 25 percent decreased risk of both cognitive impairment and dementia over the 10-year period examined. Some of this lower risk was due to the high-caffeine group having higher cognitive scores at the start of the study. It’s not possible to tell whether these higher scores were associated with higher caffeine intake prior to the start of the study.
Although this study focused on only women, the researchers note that other studies have found that men who consumed three or more cups of coffee per day had the lowest cognitive decline over a 10-year period. The researchers also note that caffeine consumption is an easily modifiable lifestyle factor with few contraindications. It is becoming increasingly clear that caffeine has relatively few negative health consequences even at the level of three or more cups of coffee per day. (For an example, see a recent New York Times article.) It appears that unless negative symptoms appear, older adults who may worry about their excessive coffee consumption can rest easy.
Driscoll I, Shumaker SA, Snively BM, et al. Relationships between caffeine intake and risk for probably dementia or global cognitive impairment: The Women’s Health Initiative Study. Journal of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences & Medical Sciences. (2016). DOI:10.1093/gerona/glw078