Coffee Does Little to Protect Aging Brain

Sorry coffee lovers — downing a few cups of coffee throughout the day may spark alertness, but it's unlikely to protect the aging brain from mental decline or dementia, according to researchers from Finland.

Some studies have suggested that coffee has a protective effect on brain function in old age, while others have not shown this association.

One of the latest studies on the topic, which appears in the September issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found no association between coffee consumption and declining cognition or dementia scores in either men or women.

Dr. Venla S. Laitala, at the University of Helsinki, and colleagues assessed the coffee drinking habits, as well as other social, demographic, and health data, of a large population of twin pairs who were 50 years old on average.

At this point in time, 75 percent of the men and 83 percent of the women drank more than 3 cups of coffee a day. Only 4 of men and about 1 percent of women reported no daily coffee consumption.

When the group was just over 74 years on average, the investigators conducted telephone interviews in 2,606 of the study participants (48 percent women) to specifically screen for declining cognition and dementia.

They found that each year of increasing age was associated with declines in thinking abilities, regardless of gender.

However, in this study, middle-age coffee consumption was not protective against "cognitive decline or preventive against dementia," Laitala told Reuters Health in an email correspondence.

As expected, heart disease, diabetes and dissatisfaction with life were significantly associated with lower cognitive performance, the researchers report.

Therefore, Laitala's team suggests further investigations concentrate on the role heart disease, diabetes, and life satisfaction play in altered and age-related thinking and analytic abilities.