Examining the Studies: Does Coffee Help Prevent Dementia?

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It’s surprising how many Americans assume dementia is just a normal part of aging. In fact, the memory, cognitive, and decision-making impairments that characterize this devastating disease do not impact all older adults. Within the past decade, researchers have been investigating the link between caffeine and dementia. Those who want to know what they can do to prevent pronounced cognitive decline in older age can read on to find a breakdown of their results.

What Is Dementia?

The most common form of dementia in the United States is Alzheimer’s Disease, but there are many other conditions that can cause memory, thinking, and decision-making impairments. All of them fall under the umbrella term of dementia. There’s no clear answer as to what causes dementia symptoms, but solutions like Dementia Assisted Living can help to alleviate the strain they place on victims’ lives.

Can Caffeine Really Help?

In 2012, researchers in Florida performed a study of people with mild cognitive impairment. They monitored participants’ cognitive abilities and their caffeine consumption levels for two to four years and came up with some surprising results. The participants whose mild cognitive impairment progressed into dementia drank only half as much coffee as those who did not go on to develop a dementia-related disease.

Some scientists now believe that coffee may act as a protective factor against Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Surprisingly, though, it may not be the caffeine itself that helps. Instead, a minor component in coffee, called eicosanoyl-5-hydroxytryptamide may be the key.

No Definitive Answer

The problem is, while studies show that caffeine consumption in middle age may help to reduce the risk of developing dementia, giving Alzheimer’s and other dementia patients a lot of coffee may not help. The results of current observational studies don’t offer definitive proof that coffee acts as a neuroprotectant against Alzheimer’s disease. Some show no effect at all, and additional research indicates that caffeine consumption may even worsen some symptoms of dementia.

Excessive caffeine consumption can disrupt sleeping patterns and have other negative consequences for people’s health, no matter what age they are. Impaired sleep can worsen dementia symptoms, so it’s important to balance the potential therapeutic value of coffee against the risk of disrupting dementia patients’ sleep.

Are There Other Ways to Prevent Dementia?

Since researchers still don’t know the exact mechanisms that cause dementia, there’s no way for people to reduce their risk of developing this condition to zero. That said, there’s plenty of evidence that living a healthy lifestyle earlier in life, either with or without coffee, can help to reduce the risk of developing dementia in old age.

Eating a healthy diet and getting plenty of exercises can help to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases like strokes and heart attacks. These cardiovascular problems are risk factors for dementia. Maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol consumption may also help to keep a person’s dementia risk to a minimum.

The Bottom Line: There Is No Silver Bullet

Most forms of dementia are degenerative. They only get worse over time, and there are no proven cures for them. The best bet is to maintain a healthy lifestyle and pay attention to changes in cognitive function. Patients already struggling with dementia can maintain a higher quality of life by living a healthy lifestyle and taking advantage of memory care programs and senior living facilities.