THE QUESTION: As a stimulant, caffeine helps people feel more alert. Might it, then, help prevent or delay the cognitive decline that often comes with advancing age?
THIS STUDY: It analyzed data on 7,017 men and women (average age, 74) who were given standardized cognitive tests periodically over four years. Women who reported drinking three or more cups of coffee or tea a day showed less decline in memory skills than did women who drank one cup or less. The benefit increased with age: Heavy coffee- or tea-drinkers were 30 percent less likely to have cognitive decline at age 65, and 70 percent less likely at age 80, than those who consumed minimal caffeine. In men, no link was found between caffeine intake and cognitive decline.
WHO MAY BE AFFECTED? Older women. Some memory decline, especially for things recently learned, is considered a normal part of aging.
CAVEATS: Caffeine consumption was recorded periodically and based only on the participants' recall; intake from such sources as soft drinks and cocoa was described as rare and not included in the data. The authors theorized that women may metabolize caffeine differently than men, making them more sensitive to its effects.
FIND THIS STUDY: It's in the August 7 issue of Neurology.
The research described in Quick Study comes from credible, peer-reviewed journals. Nonetheless, conclusive evidence about a treatment's effectiveness is rarely found in a single study. Anyone considering changing or beginning treatment of any kind should consult with a physician.