Tuesday, January 14, 2014

A Red-Letter Day for Coffee Drinkers--Consolidate Your Memory and Hydrate with Coffee

January 13, 2014 was a red-letter day for coffee drinkers!

Two major health-related stories were widely reported, starting with news (published in Nature Neuroscience) that caffeine enhances “memory consolidation.” Although there have been lots of studies showing that coffee is a cognitive enhancer, there has never been a study in which study participants were asked to memorize something without the benefit of coffee, take caffeine after the memorization activity--- and then perform at a later date….until now.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University got 160 people between the ages of 18 and 30 to look at pictures of various things (ducks, etcetera) and to identify them as either “indoor” or “outdoor” objects. Shortly after this task, the participants received either a placebo tablet or a 200-mg caffeine pill. Then they left. 24 hours later, everyone was back at the study site looking at the same pictures.

The goal was to determine whether the pictures were old, new or the same. The people who had consumed caffeine after looking at the pictures the previous day were better at determining which ones were the same. The important takeaway here is that you can consolidate memories you want to retain by drinking coffee AFTER you hear something, read something or see something. Very interesting…

How does that work? Well, one hypothesis from the researchers is adenosine blockade (the same mechanism responsible for preventing fatigue). For more information about that, please see the Nature Neuroscience article.

Another Coffee Myth Bites the Dust…

In 1928, a study demonstrated caffeine’s diuretic effect, but that study was never validated. So 86 years later (in 2014), researchers at the University of Birmingham in England decided to test how caffeine impacts hydration status by conducting a switchover study on 50 men. (Women were excluded from this study, because menstrual cycles affect water balance.) 

In this switchover study, some men drank 4 cups of coffee a day for 3 days, while others drank 4 cups of water a day for 3 days. After a 10-day wash-out period, they switched from coffee to water and vice versa. The researchers tested hydration status throughout by looking at body mass, total body water, and blood and urine tests. They found that caffeine did not alter hydration status. Drinking coffee contributed to hydration as much as water….Surprise!

So if you’re thirsty, looking for energy and interested in being healthy, drinking coffee just makes sense---and it tastes good too! If you want to remember everything you've read in this post, have a cup of coffee....then you can consolidate these ideas more easily. Comments are welcome!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Want to Achieve Your Goals in 2014? Don’t Stop Drinking Coffee

One source of joy at the beginning of a new year is the sense that we get a clean slate. A chance to be kinder, work harder, to fulfill dreams and be healthier.

And while a common resolution to break bad habits (things like cigarette smoking, binge eating, hoarding, drinking too much and regretting it later, watching too much reality television, being overly engaged in social media at the expense of everything else…), you should not stop drinking coffee in 2014 (unless of course there is a compelling medical reason).

The Health Benefits of Coffee

 Drinking coffee not only significantly decreases the risk of type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, cirrhosis, and depression, but it is packed with antioxidants. Plus coffee is a good source of B vitamins. One serving of coffee contains 6% of the RDA of vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid), which supports the adrenal gland and functions as an anti-stress supplement. The same cup of coffee also provides 11% of the RDA of vitamin B2, which supports metabolic function, making our ability to digest proteins, carbs and fats more efficient. When you think about it, having a cup of coffee in the morning (hold the sugar and high-fat dairy creamers and milk) is like having a serving of vegetables.

 Want to be more productive, alert of cognitively prepared? Want to burn calories more quickly? Drink coffee. Want to be part of a vibrant coffee-drinking community? You know what to do…

Bringing in the New Year with a Group of Coffee-Drinking Friends

Drinking coffee is an anywhere, anytime, go-to activity that brings a sense of instant companionship. On New Year’s Eve, as we waited for the countdown to 2014, I drank half a glass of wine and then got up the nerve to ask my hosts for a cup of coffee. The hostess happily started brewing coffee and putting out mugs and saucers, while her husband offered a (surprisingly) delicious vanilla soy creamer. Our small group of celebrants emptied the pot in less than 20 minutes, as we chatted. We were warm and stimulated and buffeted against the below-zero temps outdoors.

 Twenty minutes before the ball dropped, we did what millions of others were doing. We descended to the basement, sat on comfy sofas and channel-switched back and forth between NBC, FOX and CBS, watching as Ryan Seacrest smiled jauntily next to various beautiful women. Our young children pranced around in oversized 2014 sunglasses as glitter dropped all over the carpet.

 Finally, it was time. 5,4,3,2,1---we swigged our champagne, hugged and kissed, and hung out a bit longer to watch Mariah Carey sing. It truly was a happy new year, full of good friends, good wine and champagne---and exceptionally good coffee.

Happy New Year!