Though excessive reliance on caffeine can produce negative health effects such as insomnia and a rapid heart rate, moderate consumption of coffee has long been linked to a reduced risk of age-related cognitive impairment. One study presented at the 2014 Alzheimer Europe Annual Congress, for instance, found that drinking three to five cups of coffee each day could reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s by 20%. A 2010 study found that three to five cups of coffee per day could reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s by 65% among seniors aged 65 to 79.
Though coffee seems like a good option for the prevention of dementia, doctors are unsure of how it does so or how changes in coffee-drinking habits over the course of one’s life might affect the risk. A study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease suggests that changes in coffee consumption habits over time may affect coffee’s ability to protect against mild cognitive impairment (MCI). MCI is a form of dementia that reduces cognitive function somewhat more than aging does alone, and it is associated with an increased risk for Alzheimer’s.
How Coffee Affects Risk of Dementia
Researchers tracked 1,445 seniors aged 65-84 who were part of the Italian Longitudinal Study on Aging (ILSA). Researchers tracked participants for an average of 3.5 years, monitoring both their rates of mild cognitive impairment and coffee consumption.
Though increased coffee consumption over time increased the risk of MCI, coffee consumption in itself was not a risk factor. Participants who drank one to two cups of coffee per day were less likely to develop a mild cognitive impairment than those who rarely or never drank coffee. Among those who drank two or more cups of coffee per day, there was no significant link to MCI when compared to those who drank no coffee at all.
What Is Behind the Protective Benefits of Coffee?
Researchers are not sure why coffee seems to lower the risk of MCI, and the current study did not directly address this phenomenon. However, researchers do have some ideas. Caffeine, according to animal studies, may decrease activation of adenosine A2A receptors (A2AR), which may reduce the brain damage that beta-amyloid proteins cause.
- Could coffee drinking habits influence cognitive function? (2015, July 29). Retrieved from http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/297449.php
- Eskelinen, M. H., & Kivipelto, M. (2014). Caffeine as a protective factor in dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 67-74. doi:10.3233/JAD-2010-1404
- Rivas, A. (2014, November 26). Drinking Coffee Can Lower Alzheimer’s Risk By 20%, All It Takes Is 3 Cups A Day. Retrieved from http://www.medicaldaily.com/drinking-coffee-can-lower-alzheimers-risk-20-all-it-takes-3-cups-day-312410
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