Coffee can keep you awake till the wee hours of the morning. It'll jumpstart your nervous system so you can play with your grandkids. Drinking a cup of joe has even been shown to have protective effects on your liver. But can coffee improve your memory? According to new research from John Hopkins University, the answer is yes.
The team recruited more than 150 participants, half of whom were given either 100, 200 or 300 milligrams of caffeine while the rest received a placebo. Prior to caffeine consumption, the individuals participated in a memory test that consisted of looking a group of images showing objects, such as a saxophone, seahorse or four-leaf clover. The next day, those who had the caffeine remembered the images better than those who were administered the placebo.
"We report for the first time a specific effect of caffeine on reducing forgetting over 24 hours," Michael Yassa, an assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences at Johns Hopkins University told The Atlantic. "We conclude that caffeine enhances consolidation of long-term memories in humans."
Certainly, considering its sweeping conclusion, the research is rather small. But, it does serve to underline yet another potential benefit of caffeniated beverages.
As a result, the test could help improve senior wellness among coffee drinkers.
How much coffee should seniors drink?
Surprisingly, the placebo had a greater impact on memory than the small dose (100 milligrams) of caffeine. But with each 100 milligrams added, up to 300 milligrams, performance improved – 200 milligrams is equivalent to about half of a Starbucks venti coffee. After that, the researchers indicate that caffeine begins to have an inverse effect on performance, when people report headaches and begin to lose focus. Thus, there is an optimal dose. It is recommended that seniors who are coffee drinkers have around 200 milligrams per day.
The study indicated that caffeine boosts memory consolidation, which is the process of taking memories and making them more permanent, Yassa explains. In previous research, coffee was administered prior to the task, making it unclear if the drink affects focus, vigilance, memory, etc. This was the study to give coffee after the activity.
A wealth of other benefits
Coffee, when consumed in reasonable amounts, has been proven to be extremely healthy. It is loaded with antioxidants and other beneficial nutrients, including riboflavin, potassium and niacin, that can enhance senior health. A number of studies show that coffee drinkers have a lower risk of several serious diseases, such as Alzheimer's, diabetes and Parkinsons.
Along the same lines of memory, separate research from the Faculty of Medicine in Portugal has indicated that coffee may protect from Alzheimer's disease, the leading cause of dementia. While there are a handful of things you can do to prevent the cognitive disorder from developing in the first place – such as eating healthy, maintaining a strong social network and learning new skills – drinking coffee may remarkably effective as well.
Another large-scale study, conducted as part of the Dutch Contribution to the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition, tested coffee's impact on the risk of Type 2 diabetes. Evaluating more than 40,000 participants, the researchers found that those who drink the most coffee had a 23 percent to 50 percent lower risk of developing the blood glucose disorder.
Coffee may also lower the risk of Parkinson's, the second most common neurodegenerative disease behind Alzheimer's. This disease is triggered by decay of dopamine-generating neurons in the brain. Since there is no cure yet, researchers and patients have looked toward methods of prevention, honing in on coffee as one. In various studies, coffee has been seen to reduce the likelihood of developing Parkinson's by up to 60 percent, according to Authority Nutrition. It is worth noting that people who drink decaffeinated coffee don't experience a lower risk of the disease.
If you somehow still aren't convinced, a Harvard study from 2011 highlighted that women who drank four or more cups of coffee a day had lower risk of suffering from depression, a surprisingly common mental disorder among seniors.
In all of these ways, caffeinated coffee stands to enhance senior wellness, improving memory, lowering the risk for dementia, diabetes, Parkinson's and depression.
Perks outweigh the drawbacks
Of course, one cannot mention the benefits of coffee without pointing out the downside. Many people who drink the caffeinated beverage religiously feel like they can't function without it. Often times, they develop a hyper dependency on the psychoactive drink, which many have considered a drug.
With that being said, overarching health benefits remain. It may work wonders for cognitive function – particularly useful for seniors who, as they age, experience lapses in and loss of memory. Without a doubt, coffee could be one solution, bolstering the ability to recall simple things in the past that could explain the future.