Caffeine consumption may reduce the risk of cognitive decline

Indira Paz-Graniel
About the Author

Indira Paz-Graniel, MSc, is PhD candidate currently in her fourth training year, at the Pere i Virgili Health Institute - Rovira i Virgili University, Spain under supervision of Professor Jordi Salas-Salvadó and Dr. Nancy Babio. Her studies are focus in the association between beverages consumption in the context of a Mediterranean diet, cardiovascular risk factors and cognition.

What was the goal of your research or experiment?

Coffee is one of the most consumed beverages worldwide and the main source of caffeine by people living in Mediterranean countries. Besides caffeine, coffee beans contain several substances that have potential beneficial effects on health, including vitamins, minerals, polyphenols (antioxidants), and phytochemicals. In fact, in recent years the study of the effect of coffee consumption on cardiometabolic health, cancer, and mortality has been of great interest. In the last decades, the net number of individuals with neurological alterations characterized by a cognitive decline (such as Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia), has increased exponentially what has made it become a major public health issue. It is recognized that some dietary factors have a potential beneficial effect on preventing dementia onset and progression. Because of this, we aimed to explore the possible association between coffee consumption and cognitive functioning.

How did you measure or test this?

The analyses were carried out within the framework of the PREDIMED-Plus study with the participation of 6,427 elderly volunteers (age ≥ 55 years) with overweight or obesity, from all over Spain. All participants were assessed for cognitive function through a battery of neuropsychological questionnaires that explore various cognitive functions such as memory, orientation, registration, concentration, processing speed, visual search, and attention, among others.

What were the main results or findings?

We found that people who drank coffee had a lower risk of cognitive impairment compared to those who did not consume it. Moreover, when we explored the association by type of coffee, we observed that caffeinated coffee consumption had a protective effect against cognitive decline, but not decaffeinated coffee. Concerning the amount of coffee consumed per day, it was observed that those individuals with a consumption of 2 or more cups of total or caffeinated coffee (100 ml), had a lower risk of cognitive decline compared to those who consumed less than one cup a day. Further, we also explored the association between caffeine intake and cognitive function, and we observed that those individuals with higher caffeine intake less frequently presented cognitive decline compared to those with lower caffeine intake.

What does this mean?

Our results suggest that this beneficial association observed between coffee consumption and cognitive decline could be the result of the interaction between the different bioactive compounds present in coffee. Phenolic compounds with antioxidant properties could help reduce oxidative stress and inflammation of the neurons. Together with the other bioactive substances in coffee, this may help to reduce the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Caffeine by itself is structurally similar to adenosine, a signalling molecule that influences brain functioning and increases alertness, attention, mood, and excitement. Thus, coffee consumption could prevent neuronal damage,cognitive decline and improve brain functioning.

What is the next step?

We continue exploring the association between coffee consumption and caffeine intake with other health outcomes such as chronic kidney disease, anxiety, and cardiovascular risk factors.

More information

You can read the full publication here:

You can also read a blog post by the authors about this research study:

Publication information

Title: Association between coffee consumption and total dietary caffeine intake with cognitive functioning. Cross-sectional assessment in an elderly Mediterranean population.

Authors: Paz-Graniel I, Babio N, Becerra-Tomás N, et al.

Journal: European Journal of Nutrition

Year: 2020