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Caffeine May Lower Dementia Risk for Women

woman enjoying coffee Here’s a good reason to pour another warm and comforting cup of your morning coffee: It may ward off brain complications — most notably for women over 65, according to a new study.

The recently published study has revealed an association between caffeine and prevention against dementia, providing yet another reason to consume the drug in moderation.

How was the Study Conducted?

This new study was performed at the Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and was recently published in the Journal of Gerontology.  Focusing strictly on women age 65 and older, this exciting new study is unique in that it was able to follow the cohort of women for a period of 10 years. Following a large pool of 6,467 postmenopausal women who reported some level of caffeine consumption, the researchers tracked assessments of cognitive function in the woman annually over the study period.

Caffeine intake was estimated based on the participants’ responses about their coffee, tea, and caffeinated soda intake, which included consideration of the frequency and serving size of these drinks. The fact that the participants were free to consume different amounts of caffeine likewise allowed for variation within the study, providing more useful findings.

What did the Study Find?

Put simply, higher caffeine consumers were less likely to exhibit cognitive impairment over the course of the study.

More specifically, those who consumed above the median amount of caffeine (with an average caffeine intake of 261 mg per day, which is equivalent to two to three 8-ounce cups of coffee, five to six 8-ounce cups of black tea, or seven to eight 12-ounce cans of cola), were diagnosed with cognitive impairment less frequently than those who fell below the median (with an average intake of 64 mg per day within this subset).

In fact, those people in the group that consumed more daily caffeine exhibited a 36 percent reduction in the risk of dementia over the 10-year period as compared to the group that consumed less caffeine.  Notably, the researchers adjusted for a host of potential confounding factors—including age, race, education, and a number of physical conditions—before coming to this conclusion.


Should I Drink More Caffeine?

While the lead researchers of the study cautioned that they cannot make a definitive, direct link between higher caffeine consumption and a lowered risk of cognitive impairment and dementia, the results of the study were compelling nonetheless. Based on the encouraging results, the researchers called for further research on the topic in order to better understand the relationship in play. Significantly, they added that the research is particularly exciting as caffeine consumption is an easily modifiable behavior, meaning most anyone could stand to benefit if the results hold true in future trials.

Nevertheless, when the results of this study are added to the bulk of knowledge on the subject, they represent another reason to consume a moderate amount of caffeine on a daily basis.  While the impact of caffeine on the body will vary greatly from person to person—as it is modified by factors such as the rate of metabolism, the degree of past exposure, and dietary habits—this study suggests that the benefits of caffeine may far outweigh the negatives. Furthermore, as the study was conducted explicitly on postmenopausal women, this population has even more cause to carefully consider increasing their caffeine consumption, if appropriate. Caution and a gradual increase in caffeine would be wise strategies to include in making a change.

Moreover, it is worth noting that increasing the consumption of caffeine containing beverages such as soda may lead to numerous other health risks; choosing coffee and/or tea is a better alternative.

Derek is a technical writer and editor with 10 years of experience in the health care field, having first earned a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Delaware. He is a contributing author on a number of textbooks in the medical field, ran a nuclear cardiology licensing course, and has written a variety of other pieces from online training courses to medical software manuals. Derek pursues his personal interest in health and wellness by playing multiple sports and running marathons. An insatiable traveler, he spent 16 months working and living abroad while traveling through South America, Europe, and Southeast Asia.

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