Caffeine’s Effect on Memory, Cognition, and Alzheimer’s
Does caffeine help or harm memory?
Caffeine affects brain function and researchers have been investigating whether caffeine improves memory and learning retention or hinders it.
Here are just some of the scientific studies that have investigated caffeine’s influence on memory and diseases like Alzheimer’s.
Caffeine’s Effect on Cognition
Studies have explored how consuming caffeine can influence a person’s memory and cognition. Here are just a few.
- One study published in the Physiology & Behavior Journal looked at caffeine’s effect on the memory of word lists. The researchers found that in males, caffeine had no effect, but in females, caffeine worsened cognition slightly. Src.
- Another study published by Nature Neuroscience found that caffeine administered post studying helped students with memory consolidation.
- The University of Arizona recently looked at whether caffeine helps memory during periods when kids aren’t in their optimal periods of arousal. Basically, caffeine given to kids in the morning helped with memory, while caffeine given to kids in the afternoon (a kids optimal arousal time) had no effect.
- A similar study found the same phenomenon in adults, but only when caffeine was administered in the afternoon, which is an adult’s period of lowest level of arousal.
- Another study published in Neuropharmacology found that moderate levels of caffeine seemed to help with some types of memory in males, but excessive caffeine had a negative effect on certain types of memory.
- Yet another study published in the Journals of Gerontology showed that women who consumed more than the median daily amount of coffee (261 mg per day) had a reduced risk of developing dementia or memory impairment.
Caffeine, Coffee, and Alzheimer’s
1. A team of scientists has studied folks with Alzheimer’s and found that “the group that drank the most coffee had the best memories” (source).
In a later study, they applied some Alzheimer’s inflicted mice with 500mg of caffeine (where do they find these poor rodents?). With 500mg of caffeine the memories of the mice were protected (how do they test that?).
The study author recommended caffeine from coffee as the best source:
Arendash said coffee provides the best source of concentrated caffeine because it also provides antioxidants also known to provide protection against memory loss.
Caffeinated soft drinks do not deliver the same benefit because they lack those antioxidants and also contain sugars, increasing the risk for hypertension or high blood pressure.
While chocolate also is a source of caffeine, one would have to eat 5 pounds of milk chocolate to get the same effects of drinking five cups of caffeinated coffee, Arendash noted.
2. Other research published in the Journal of Neuroinflammation has also shown evidence that caffeine helps prevent this disease.
Basically, they found that caffeine protects the blood-brain barrier, which helps prevent the brain damage responsible for Alzheimer’s.
You can read more about the study at BBC News.
3. A study conducted by Alzheimer’s Europe and the Institute for Scientific Information on Coffee found that 3 to 5 cups of coffee a day is the optimal amount to protect the brain from degenerative illnesses such as Alzheimer’s.
The study also cited a Mediterranean Diet as another factor that lowers the risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
4. Researchers from the Krembil Brain Institute believe that they have isolated the compound in roasted coffee that is responsible for coffee’s protective effect against Alzheimer’s disease. This compound is produced when coffee beans are roasted and the darker the roast, the more compound is produced.
New research from Barcelona, Spain showed that caffeine may worsen Alzheimer’s symptoms in those that already have the disease. This study was conducted using mice but may have similar applications in humans.
Natural and Moderate Caffeine Seems Best
From the above research, we can conclude that caffeine does show some benefit to memory. There is evidence that it helps prevent diseases like Alzheimer’s and helps improve certain types of memory.
However, to get the most memory-boosting benefits, we recommend the following:
- Consuming caffeine from natural sources such as coffee and tea.
- Consuming a moderate amount of caffeine that is considered safe for your age and health profile.
- Consuming caffeine during your non-optimal period of arousal during your work or school day.
Does your memory function better after having caffeine?