Habitual caffeine intake may protect against age-related cognitive decline, report finds

By Mary Ellen Shoup

- Last updated on GMT

3-5 cups of coffee a day may provide protection against Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, suggests the ISIC. ©iStock/dolgachov
3-5 cups of coffee a day may provide protection against Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, suggests the ISIC. ©iStock/dolgachov

Related tags Caffeine

A report published by the Institute for Scientific Information on Coffee (ISIC) suggests that moderate coffee consumption could reduce age-related cognitive decline in adults.

More specifically, the study also suggests that regular daily coffee consumption can reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s by 27%, likely due to its stimulation of the central nervous system.

In older adults, research found that caffeine normalizes cognitive performance instead of boosting it. Longer term coffee consumption is associated with curbing cognitive decline as the body ages.

"A moderate intake of coffee (3-5 cups per day) may provide protection against age-related cognitive decline and other neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's Disease,"​ says the ISIC. 

The ISIC's activities are focused on the study of scientific matters related to coffee and health. Its members are illycaffe, Jacobs Douwe Egberts, Lavazza, Nestle, Paulig and Tchibo. 

Clarifying health benefits of coffee

The research also found that coffee manufacturers have their work cut out in convincing over 55s that coffee can reduce age-related cognitive decline.

ISIC surveyed 4,119 respondents across 10 European countries to see how this older generation of consumers perceived coffee and its health benefits. The survey revealed that nearly two-thirds (64%) of respondents aged 55 or older though that drinking coffee did not aid in reducing mental decline (e.g. Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases), while 62% believed coffee was “neither good nor bad”​ for health.

Nearly half of respondents (49%) of ISIC’s survey believed that drinking coffee may cause health problems.

“Overall, the results from ISIC’s survey suggest that consumers are confused about the potential health effects of coffee,”​ the report said.

Caffeine and adenosine receptors

The feeling of fatigue and lethargy occurs when adenosine binds to adenosine receptors in the brain, acting as a central nervous system depressant with the A2A being the key in reducing age-related cognitive decline.

Since caffeine has a similar structure to adenosine, it too can bond to adenosine receptors by “acting as an imposter” ​and blocking the actions of adenosine thereby promoting feeling of mental alertness instead, says the ISIC in its report. 

How much coffee does it take to improve cognitive function?

The report notes that it is difficult to determine the ideal intake of coffee because of genetic differences in the way individuals metabolize and react to caffeine.

EFSA on coffee

In its Scientific Opinion on the safety of caffeine, EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) says up to 400mg of caffeine a day (equating roughly to up to 5 cups of coffee a day) from all sources does not raise any concerns for healthy adults. 

For example, body mass can affect the rate at which caffeine is absorbed by the body. Research found that older adults may be most impacted by this as elderly individuals tend to lose body mass as they age.

However, the ISIC says that a daily average of three to five cups of coffee per day is correlated with improvements in age-related cognitive decline because of the liquid’s caffeine content as well as its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds.

The report can be found here.

Related topics R&D Tea & coffee Health and wellness

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drink up

Posted by matt,

drink up

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