The National Coffee Association has reported that 61% of coffee drinkers say that coffee makes them more mentally focused.
Many of us feel that coffee makes us more alert and happier too.
And now a group of researchers have published an article in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease reporting new data on the coffee-mental health link: Drinking 3 to 5 cups of coffee a day reduces the risk of developing dementia by 65%. These statistically significant results are based on data compiled over a 21-year period on 1,409 middle-aged adults.
The Study was conducted in Sweden by Dr. Miia Kivipelto, an associate professor of Neurology at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. Like the rest of Scandinavia, Sweden has a robust (and, in my opinion, enviable) coffee-drinking culture. Average per capita consumption per year is 7.9 kg, compared with 4.2 kg in the United States.
Like other researchers, Dr. Kivipelto is not 100% clear on why coffee has positive effects on mental health. She does, however, have three well-formulated guesses:
1. Coffee reduces the risk of diabetes, which has been associated with an increased risk of dementia.
2. In animal studies, coffee has been shown to reduce the formation of amyloid plaques--the physical hallmark of Alzheimer's disease (generally found during post-mortem examinations).
3. Coffee may have an antioxidant effect in the bloodstream, reducing vascular risk factors for dementia.
Clearly, there is a link between what we consume and how well we function both physically and mentally---but, there is some disagreement among experts about the precise mechanisms.
John Zeisel, PhD, author of I'm Still Here: A Breakthrough Approach to Understanding Someone Living With Alzheimer's Disease, features a discussion of the latest news that fast food causes Alzheimer's Disease on his blog.
Dr. Zeisel, president of Hearthstone Alzheimer Center in Woburn Massachusetts, developed the Artists for Alzheimer's program.
The study in question was also conducted at the Karolinska Institute. Scientists fed mice a high-fat, junk-food diet for 9 months---and the mice started to develop brain plaques and chemical changes characteristic of Alzheimer's disease. The study design is imperfect, but the results are clear---poor nutritional choices lead to less than optimal outcomes.
Coffee, it seems, has proven to be a good nutritional choice for many---myself included. The continued accumulation of positive data is again leading us back to the idea that coffee is good for us!
Drink up, enjoy, and think hard!