Consuming more caffeine may protect older women from dementia

October 4, 2016 Providence Health Team

A third cuppa Joe in the morning might help jump-start your day, and it may stave off dementia, too, researchers say.

The results of a new study published in The Journals of Gerontology, Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences show that the risk of developing dementia or cognitive impairment is reduced for women 65 and older by consuming more than 261 milligrams of caffeine per day. That’s the equivalent of two to three 8-ounce cups of coffee, or five to six 8-ounce cups of black tea.

“The mounting evidence of caffeine consumption as a potentially protective factor against cognitive impairment is exciting given that caffeine is also an easily modifiable dietary factor with very few contraindications,” said Ira Driscoll, Ph.D., the study’s lead author and a professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

The study offered a unique opportunity for researchers to look at data from 6,467 postmenopausal women who participated in the Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study, which is funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Questions about the participants’ caffeine intake provided information on the type, amount and frequency of caffeine they consumed per day.

Findings in favor of caffeine

The women who participated in the study were given annual exams to assess their cognitive function. In 10 years or less, 209 women received a diagnosis of probable dementia, and 388 were classified as having probable dementia or some form of cognitive impairment.

Women who consumed above the median levels (the mean being 261 milligrams) of caffeine were less likely to develop dementia than those who consumed below the median (an average intake of 64 milligrams per day).  

Researchers considered other risk factors in the study: hormone therapy, age, race, education, body mass index, sleep quality, depression, hypertension, prior cardiovascular disease, diabetes, smoking and alcohol use.

According to the report, 89 percent of the women studied had no prior history of cardiovascular disease, and 92 percent did not have a history of diabetes. Approximately 5 percent of the women were still working.

Further study needed

The study did not include men. But a 2010 study published in Neurology that did include women and men reported a connection between caffeine consumption and cognitive function in women, but not men. “No relation was found between caffeine intake and cognitive decline in men,” the researchers said.

“While we can’t make a direct link between higher caffeine consumption and lower incidence of cognitive impairment and dementia, with further study, we can better quantify its relationship with cognitive health outcomes,” Driscoll said in a prepared statement.

“Research on this topic will be beneficial not only from a preventative standpoint but also to better understand the underlying mechanisms and their involvement in dementia and cognitive impairment.”

Learn more

If you want to read the study, “Relationships Between Caffeine Intake and Risk for Probable Dementia or Global Cognitive Impairment: The Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study,” click here.

You can learn more about the Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study here.

Read another post on To Your Health about the health benefits of coffee and how it may help you live longer.

If you have questions about your cognitive health, talk to your health care provider. You can find a Providence provider in your area.  

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