By: Kerry Robinson, RD Date: 12/22/09
Do you ever get that fuzzy-headed, can’t-remember-where-I-put-my-keys feeling? Or maybe you slip into “tortoise mode” by mid-afternoon – that is, until you’ve had your daily cup of coffee or other caffeinated beverage – then you feel revived and you’re thinking clearly again.
If you are a regular coffee drinker, then you are probably grateful for the energy boost you get from the caffeine. What you may not know is that the scientific evidence supporting potential health benefits from consuming moderate amounts of caffeine is growing.
Benefits of Caffeine
While most of us have experienced the short-term benefits associated with caffeine consumption (increased mental alertness and improved athletic performance, etc. – see the Foundation Fact Sheet on Caffeine and Performance for more information), there are also some compelling potential long-term health benefits of moderate caffeine consumption. New research has revealed some very encouraging potential benefits, including reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and chronic liver disease, as well as promising new research on caffeine intake and risk of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Caffeine & Alzheimers
Alzheimer’s Disease is a progressive and fatal brain disease that is becoming increasingly common in the elderly population. The Alzheimer’s Association states that there are currently 5.3 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s. While there are some medications that can treat some of the symptoms, there is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s. However, recent research conducted mainly in laboratory animals has shown that caffeinated coffee may help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s or slow its progression. For example, studies on Alzheimer’s in rabbits found that regularly consuming caffeine in amounts equal to one cup of coffee per day protected against the disruption of the blood brain barrier, a precursor condition to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Other animal research has found a similar protective effect of caffeine for Alzheimer’s Disease.
More research is needed to determine whether these results are applicable to humans, but in the meantime, you don’t have to feel guilty about having your daily cup of coffee, tea or soda – the caffeine will keep you alert and may have other long-term health benefits.
Moderate caffeine consumption is generally considered to be about 300 milligrams per day (the amount in about three 8-ounce cups of coffee). Certain consumer groups, such as children, pregnant women, and those with a history of cardiovascular disease, may be more sensitive to caffeine’s effects and should discuss their caffeine consumption with their health care provider.
For more information about caffeine and health, visit the IFIC Review on Caffeine and Health.