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Moderate Coffee Drinking Linked to Better Brain Health in Seniors

Two couples of senior citizens drinking coffee at a wooden table in a community center.

Good or bad? Well, when it comes to coffee, drinking moderate amounts on a regular basis may be tied to better brain health in seniors. The conclusion is the result of a recent study of more than 1,400 Italian seniors, which found a possible link between patterns of coffee consumption and their risk for “mild cognitive impairment” – a decline in memory and thinking that are often considered a precursor to dementia – and a major drain on health insurance and Medicare coverage.
While prior research has suggested that caffeine might impact neurological health, the study could only point to possible associations, not cause-and-effect, according to the investigators.
A research team, led by Dr. Vincenzo Solfrizzi of the University of Bari Aldo Moro, studied the coffee consumption of 1,445 Italians aged 65 to 84. The mental health of the participants was tracked for a median of three-and-a-half years. Reporting the results on July 31st, in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, the team determined that people who consistently drank about one or two cups of coffee per day had a lower rate of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) than those who never or rarely drank coffee.
On the other hand, no beneficial association was found by Solfrizzi’s group among individuals whose habitual coffee intake exceeded two cups per day. And, in what the researchers called an “interesting” finding, tests showed that the rate of MCI inexplicably rose over time for seniors who increased their intake by a cup or more of coffee daily. Those studied were found to have a rate of MCI that was about one-and-a-half times higher than that of long-term, moderate coffee drinkers (the aforementioned one to two cups per day) whose daily intake didn’t go up at all.
According to the study’s authors, older individuals who never or rarely consumed coffee and those who bumped up their daily coffee consumption habits had a greater risk of developing MCI compared to consistent, moderate coffee drinkers. The influence a cup of java might have on brain health is best explained with the use of mouse studies, which suggest that caffeine may have a “neuro-protective” effect in minimizing damage from the buildup of amyloid protein plaques – long linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
These same studies have found that, while “moderate” levels of caffeine have seemed to boost memory in rodents, higher doses may actually hinder it. Furthermore, moderate caffeine intake might also help the aging brain by boosting insulin sensitivity, cutting the odds for type 2 diabetes, which researchers were quick to point out has long been linked to a higher risk for memory woes.
But, before a definitive conclusion can be made, more research is needed to strengthen the theory that one of the world’s favorite drinks might help prevent dementia. This, the Italian team added, would include larger studies with longer follow-up periods, hopefully leading to diet-related ways to ward off both dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Until future tests prove – without a doubt – that coffee is beneficial in specific amounts, moderation should continue to be the rule. In the meantime, make certain your health insurance or Medicare health insurance covers you completely should you suffer from the unfortunate effects of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
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Are you are a moderate or heavy coffee drinker? What is your opinion of the Italian coffee study? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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