“Doc, I drink coffee a lot. I feel more alert each time I start my day with a cup of coffee in the morning. I seem to remember things more with clarity. What does coffee do to our body, does it improve our memory and make us more alert?”

   That was a responder and a teacher in one of the secondary schools in Lagos, that was after he read my submission on “Ageing – 10 ways to prevent brain damage.”

   In a paper presented by Prof Esther Heerema, and reviewed by a “Board Certified Physicians”, published in VeryWell magazine, it was agreed that one theory out there is that caffeine(coffee), which has been associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer’s Disease, when consumed in middle life, can also help improve your cognitive functioning now.

   Sounds great to me. Although I am not a big coffee drinker, I do like coffee flavour, and gravitate towards decaffeinated coffee. So if caffeine can help our memories that is great news.

   For millions of people in Nigeria, out there who love their daily coffee, this is the perfect reason to keep that morning routine coffee-cap – not that you actually need a reason to continue your cappuccino indulgence.

What is caffeine?

   • Caffeine is a stimulant of the central nervous system, found in coffee, tea, cocoa, and cola drinks. Its action combats fatigue, but it is a comparatively mild drug. It is also a “diuretic” i.e. it increases the urine output of the kidneys. Medically, caffeine is often included in headache pills, to counteract the dulling effect of the pain-killing ingredients.

   • Abuse of caffeine is unlikely because of the large quantities necessary, but those who drink considerable amounts of coffee probably have a mild psychic dependence, because of the feelings of tiredness experienced when the stimulation wears off.

What are the research findings on coffee?

   1) – A recent study published in 2014, conducted at John Hopkins University, shows that caffeine does improve memory.

   2) – The journal Neuroscience found that when older adults consumed coffee, they demonstrated improved working memory compared to non-coffee-drinkers.

   3) A third study found that bees who consumed caffeine, are more likely to remember floral scents, than those who consumed sucrose – of course the question with this type of study is whether that translates to humans or not.

  4) – One study measured the combination Of caffeine and glucose, and found that, when administered together, the participants’ a) reaction time b) verbal memory and c) attention(concentration) were improved when compared to those who received only glucose or placebo.

   5) – Another study compared those who took regular coffee to those who do not. The result showed that when both groups map-memorising-ability( a measure of their spatial memory) were taken they varied, with coffee drinkers at an advantage.

   6) – One study showed that women, older than age 65 who had cardiovascular disease – and thus a higher risk of cognitive decline related to dementia, who took regular coffee – were better at cognitive assessment than non-coffee-drinkers.

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   7) – Caffeinated gum: According to one research study, caffeinated herbal gum was shown to be effective in improving memory.

How does coffee affect the memory of extroverts?

  • Researchers in the study found that serial recall and memory of those who were extroverted and consumed coffee improved tremendously. Note that extroverts are associated with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). It was also found that coffee improved the speed of reaction and ability to receive and store new information.

Is coffee memory improvement a myth?

   • Other studies cast doubt on the benefits of coffee for our memories. One such study, published in Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, reviewed the research conducted thus far on coffee and cognition.

   • Then concluded that coffee’s benefits, though exist, are limited to moderately increasing our focus, mood, and concentration, especially in the elderly, but very minimal in the young.

Conclusions and cautions.

   • There is an extensive amount of research on coffee and it’s effect on memory and other cognitive processes.

   • The results vary significantly, but there does appear to be general support of the idea that coffee boosts cognitive functioning, especially in the old and elderly.

   • Some research indicates that the source of the caffeine is important, showing a benefit from one source and not the other.

   • Finally, a caution, lest you decide that you can consume endless amounts of coffee, based on this short summary of research alone. Everything must be done in moderation.

   • For some people there are health risks with even low levels of caffeine, and very high levels of caffeine have been shown to have the possibility of being detrimental to your health. So before you consume excess coffee be medically guided.

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