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Should You Give up Your Morning Cup of Coffee?

Love it or hate it – coffee is always in the news for its potential health benefits. We’ve learned that it can help heart disease, help you live longer, stop depression and can even help to alleviate the symptoms of Parkinson’s. In fact, the positive data gained from scientific studies has been so strong that, earlier this year, it was recommended that we should drink more of the stuff.
However, this advice could all be a little premature as a recent study carried out at the University of Bari Aldo Moro in Italy discovered. The team evaluated almost 1500 coffee drinkers aged between 65 and 84, and concluded that consistently drinking one or two cups of coffee daily is associated with a significant reduction in the risk of developing mild cognitive impairment, compared to those people who never or hardly ever drink it. These findings support previous research that found that caffeine could have a protective effect on neurons.
While this all seems like good news, this recent research also showed that the people who increased their coffee consumption to over 2 cups per day saw a significant increase in their risk of developing mild cognitive impairment. The results showed that participants who normally drank one cup of coffee had twice the rate of mild cognitive impairment when they started drinking more, compared to those who reduced their consumption to less than one cup. These results suggest that, while drinking coffee can have a protective effect on the brain, if you’re a non-coffee drinker who takes up the habit in later life, or as a coffee drinker you increase your consumption, the protective effects seem to be lost and you have a higher risk of developing mild cognitive impairment.
The authors have suggested three explanations for their findings:

  1.  Coffee may reduce inflammation in the brain.
  2.  Coffee could activate receptors in the brain which affect oxygen consumption and blood flow, and that a steady intake of caffeine may help normal memory function, while inconsistent consumption may have the opposite effect.
  3. And finally, caffeine is a psychoactive stimulant, thus compensating for natural cognitive decline in older people as it affects attention and vigilance.

So, if you’re a coffee drinker, it may be worth cutting down to just a couple of cups a day, while keeping your intake consistent.

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