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Does Coffee Boost Brain/ Cognitive Functions Over Time?

Posted Oct 24 2009 12:00am

A fewA_small_cup_of_coffee eternal questions:
- Is caffeine good for the brain?
- Does it boost cognitive functions?
- Does it protect against dementia?

There is little doubt that drinking that morning cup of coffee will likely increase alertness, but the main questions that research is trying to answer go beyond that. Basically: is there a sustained, lifetime, benefit or harm from drinking coffee regularly?

The answer, so far, contains good news and bad news. The good news for coffee drinkers is that most of the long-term results are directionally more positive than negative, so no clear harm seems to occur. The bad news is that it is not clear so far whether caffeine has beneficial effects on general brain functions, either short-term or long-term (aged-related decline or risks of dementia).

It is important to note that many of the studies showing an effect of coffee consumption on brain functions or risks of dementia report a correlation or association (they are not randomized clinical trials). As you know, correlation doesn’t prove causation: coffee drinkers may seem to do well in a number in these long-term studies, but there may be other reasons why coffee drinkers do better.

Q: How does caffeine affect my brain?
A: Caffeine is a stimulant.

It belongs to a chemical group called xanthine. Adenosine is a naturally occurring xanthine in the brain that slows down the activity of brain cells (neurons). To a neuron, caffeine looks like adenosine. It is therefore used by some neurons in place of adenosine. The result is that these neurons speed up instead of slowing down.

This increased neuronal activity triggers the release of the adrenaline hormone, which will affect your body

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