I’m not much use behind the keyboard until I’ve had my morning cup of coffee. And I’m far from the only American who needs a little java jolt to get their day going.
If a study published in this month’s Journal of Nutrition is any indication, the caffeine in coffee might offer not just a momentary mental boost but also longer-term effects on thinking skills. Having an alcoholic drink a day might also benefit our mental performance, but the line between just right and too much is uncertain. An even better strategy for maintaining memory and thinking skills with age may be to eat a healthy diet.
In the study, researchers from the National Institute on Aging compared scores on various tests of thinking skills and memory with caffeine, alcohol, and nutrient intake in 727 men and women taking part in the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging. Over all, participants who ranked high on the healthy diet scale did better on 10 tests of memory than those with lower diet scores. The same held true for those who took in more caffeine. The effects for moderate alcohol drinking were mixed.
The caffeine-brain connection
The reason you get a quick wakeup call after chugging a mug of coffee has to do with the way caffeine tricks your brain. Not only is caffeine a brain stimulant, but it also blocks receptors for a chemical called adenosine, which normally prevents the release of excitatory brain chemicals. With adenosine out of the way, these brain-sparking chemicals can flow more freely—giving you a surge of energy and potentially improving mental performance and slowing age-related mental decline.
The Journal of Nutrition study isn’t the last word on the subject of caffeine and memory. It showed that people—particularly those who were ages 70 and over—who took in more caffeine scored better on tests of mental function, but not on memory tests or other measures of mental ability.
Some previous studies have shown improved long-term memory performance and thinking ability in regular caffeine consumers; others haven’t shown any connection.
Drink to your cognitive health?
When it comes to alcohol, its effects on memory and thinking skills may depend on how they are measured and how much you’re drinking. In this study, moderate alcohol use appeared to improve working memory and attention—especially in women and in those ages 70 and over. But those benefits could come at the expense of declines in skills like executive function and global thinking.
Excessive drinking, defined as more than two drinks a day for men or more than one a day for women, is known to harm the brain. Over time, excessive drinking can cause everything from short-term memory lapses to more permanent problems. Any benefits from alcohol seen in theJournal of Nutrition study came from moderate drinking.
Better memory through diet
The study also looked at the connection between diet and mental performance. People who ate foods with plenty of healthful nutrients had better attention and memory than participant with poorer diets. A healthy diet was also linked to good thinking skills in women and participants under age 70. In particular, foods that are part of the Mediterranean diet—fruits, vegetables, nuts, fish, olive oil, and whole grains—show promise for preserving memory and preventing Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
A recipe for maintaining memory
This study is just one of many linking healthy eating habits with maintaining memory and thinking skills into old age. Continuing a healthy diet, or switching to one, makes sense on many levels. It probably is good for your brain, and it’s definitely good for your heart, bones, muscles, and overall health.
As for caffeine? There’s no evidence yet that you need to start drinking coffee or tea to protect your brain. If you like drinking caffeinated beverages, enjoy them. But keep in mind that adding lots of sugar or cream, or getting caffeine via sugar-sweetened soda, may counter any benefits.
What about alcohol? If you enjoy drinking alcohol, keep it moderate—or less. As the researchers write, “alcohol has potentially deleterious effects over time with lower intake being a better choice than moderate intake.” Article Source
Caffeine and Health – New CEU Course from PDResources
Caffeine and Health
Caffeine is a rapidly absorbed organic compound that acts as a stimulant in the human body. The average amount of caffeine consumed in the US is approximately 300 mg per person per day – the equivalent to between two and four cups of coffee – with coffee accounting for about three-fourths of the caffeine that is consumed in the American diet. This is considered to be a moderate caffeine intake, which, according to many studies, can promote a variety of health benefits.
But some studies claim otherwise, even suggesting that one or two cups of coffee a day may negatively impact our health. So, what are we to believe?
This course will analyze the potential health benefits, as well as the negative side effects, of caffeine consumption on a variety of health conditions, including: dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, headache, cancer, Parkinson’s disease, gallstones, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes mellitus, fibrocystic breast conditions, premenstrual syndrome, pregnancy and lactation, osteoporosis, athletic performance, and weight control.
Professional Development Resources is approved to offer continuing education by the American Psychological Association (APA); the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC ACEP #5590); the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB Provider #1046, ACE Program); the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA Provider #3159); the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR Provider #PR001); the Alabama State Board of Occupational Therapy; the Florida Boards of Social Work, Mental Health Counseling and Marriage and Family Therapy (#BAP346), Psychology & School Psychology (#50-1635), Dietetics & Nutrition (#50-1635), and Occupational Therapy Practice (#34); the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker & MFT Board (#RCST100501); the South Carolina Board of Professional Counselors & MFTs (#193); and the Texas Board of Examiners of Marriage & Family Therapists (#114) and State Board of Social Worker Examiners (#5678).