You may remember the old adage, “When in doubt, drink coffee.” After all, we just guzzle coffee because it’s pretty, and it makes us wake up happier and fit, not to mention increase our longevity, right? It’s a widely held belief that higher coffee consumption has beneficial health effects, and now we have the evidence to back it up. According to new research, drinking two to three cups of coffee a day actually halves the risk of memory loss and plaques forming in the brain – and it’s particularly effective at reducing the risk of dementia.
When scientists from Tufts University collected data from surveys of 2,500 men and women, they wanted to see what they could learn about the connection between coffee consumption and the likelihood of developing mental illness. They had participants filled out a “psychometric questionnaire” that measured their intelligence and how often they drank coffee. The paper states that “the results provide a substantial body of evidence that caffeine intake is positively related to cognitive performance, suggesting that the association between coffee consumption and cognitive outcomes, including episodic memory and verbal memory, may have a generalizable importance across several cognitive domains.”
The researchers looked at the data over 14 years and found that “when compared with those who abstained from coffee in daily routines, participants who consumed two to three cups of coffee per day had a 46 percent lower risk of memory loss and a 28 percent lower risk of vascular dementia, which includes forms of dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease.” What’s more, they concluded that “most of the caffeine content was consumed in the morning, when cognitive functions are needed the most,” and as the content increases in the evening, they increase the risk of cognitive impairment.
To conclude, the researchers suggested that “better dietary and lifestyle recommendations should be made, in particular to fortify coffee with levels of caffeine sufficient to prevent neurodegenerative disorders, such as vascular dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease.” But coffee lovers, be warned, the benefits might not be permanent. Coffee does act as a “protective” factor, but it has been found to “leak back” over time, which can contribute to cognitive decline.
What’s more, several other studies have found a direct connection between high coffee consumption and abnormal brain chemistry. Still, these findings should encourage anyone who loves a cup of coffee to grab a second serving.