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Neurodegenerative disorders

Caffeine and cognitive performance

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Neurodegenerative disorders
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Effects of coffee consumption

Unhealthy lifestyles, vascular diseases, genetic factors, oxidative stress and inflammation all accelerate cognitive decline, suggesting that cognitive decline could, at least partly, be modifiable.

Caffeine is known to have stimulating properties on human cognitive function, including positive effects on alertness, concentration7, learning, memory and mood 8. Caffeine is also known to stimulate motor activity. It has been hypothesised that caffeine could, in part, compensate for this decline because of its effects on vigilance, mainly in situations of reduced alertness9. However, young and elderly subjects appear to respond to the effects of caffeine differently.

Effects of coffee on cognitive decline

It is suggested that caffeine may help to reverse the effects of cognitive aging by stimulating the energy resources of elderly subjects9.  

  • A 2020 systematic review suggests that caffeine consumption, especially moderate quantities consumed through coffee or green tea and in women, may reduce the risk of dementia and cognitive decline, and may ameliorate cognitive decline in cognitively impaired individuals10.
  • Additionally, a 2021 dose response meta-analysis concluded that consumption of coffee reduced the risk of any cognitive deficit (<2.8 cups per day) or dementia (<2.3 cups per day)3.  
  • However, a 2018 meta-analysis of prospective studies indicated no statistically significant association between coffee consumption and the risk of dementia11.

Some studies have suggested that habitual coffee consumption may boost the cognitive reserve of older adults, particularly in women10. However, findings from the UK Biobank provide little support for habitual consumption of regular coffee or tea, or caffeine per se, in improving cognitive function12. Whether habitual caffeine intake affects cognitive function requires further research.

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