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Nutrition, Vitamins & Supplements for Seniors

Researchers Find Coffee Enhances Memory, Good News for Seniors

Already the favorite drink for senior citizens, here is a new reason to love caffeine even more

Jan. 12, 2014 - For some, it's the tradition of steeping tea leaves to brew the perfect cup of tea. For most seniors, it's the morning shuffle to a coffee maker for a hot jolt of java. Then there are those who like their wake up with the kind of snap and a fizz usually found in a carbonated beverage.

Regardless of the routine, the consumption of caffeine is the energy boost of choice for millions to wake up or stay up. Now, however, researchers at the Johns Hopkins University have found another use for the stimulant: memory enhancer.

 

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More news about coffee below news story.


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Michael Yassa, assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences at Johns Hopkins, and his team of scientists found that caffeine has a positive effect on long-term memory in humans. Their research, published by the journal Nature Neuroscience, shows that caffeine enhances certain memories at least up to 24 hours after it is consumed.

"We've always known that caffeine has cognitive-enhancing effects, but its particular effects on strengthening memories and making them resistant to forgetting has never been examined in detail in humans," said Yassa, senior author of the paper. "We report for the first time a specific effect of caffeine on reducing forgetting over 24 hours."

The Johns Hopkins researchers conducted a double-blind trial; which participants who did not regularly eat or drink caffeinated products received either a placebo or a 200-milligram caffeine tablet five minutes after studying a series of images. Salivary samples were taken from the participants before they took the tablets to measure their caffeine levels. Samples were taken again one, three and 24 hours afterwards.

The next day, both groups were tested on their ability to recognize images from the previous day's study session. On the test, some of the visuals were the same as from the day before, some were new additions and some were similar but not the same as the items previously viewed. More members of the caffeine group were able to correctly identify the new images as "similar" to previously viewed images versus erroneously citing them as the same.

The brain's ability to recognize the difference between two similar but not identical items, called pattern separation, reflects a deeper level of memory retention, the researchers said.

"If we used a standard recognition memory task without these tricky similar items, we would have found no effect of caffeine," Yassa said. "However, using these items requires the brain to make a more difficult discrimination -- what we call pattern separation, which seems to be the process that is enhanced by caffeine in our case."

The memory center in the human brain is the hippocampus, a seahorse-shaped area in the medial temporal lobe of the brain. The hippocampus is the switchbox for all short-term and long-term memories. Most research done on memory -- the effects of concussions in athletics to war-related head injuries to dementia in the aging population -- are focused on this area of the brain.

Until now, caffeine's effects on long-term memory had not been examined in detail. Of the few studies done, the general consensus was that caffeine has little or no effect on long-term memory retention.

The research is different from prior experiments because the subjects took the caffeine tablets only after they had viewed and attempted to memorize the images.

"Almost all prior studies administered caffeine before the study session, so if there is an enhancement, it's not clear if it's due to caffeine's effects on attention, vigilance, focus or other factors. By administering caffeine after the experiment, we rule out all of these effects and make sure that if there is an enhancement, it's due to memory and nothing else," said Yassa.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 90 percent of people worldwide consume caffeine in one form or another. In the United States, 80 percent of adults consume caffeine every day. The average adult has an intake of about 200 milligrams -- the same amount used in the Yassa study -- or roughly one strong cup of coffee or two small cups of coffee per day.

Yassa's team completed the research at Johns Hopkins before his lab moved to the University of California-Irvine at the start of this year.

"The next step for us is to figure out the brain mechanisms underlying this enhancement," he said. "We can use brain-imaging techniques to address these questions. We also know that caffeine is associated with healthy longevity and may have some protective effects from cognitive decline like Alzheimer's disease. These are certainly important questions for the future."

Notes:

The lead author of the paper is Daniel Borota, an undergraduate student in Yassa's lab who received an undergraduate research award from Johns Hopkins to conduct the study.

Additional authors, all from Johns Hopkins, are: Elizabeth Murray, a research program coordinator in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences; John Toscano, professor in the Department of Chemistry; Gizem Kecili, a graduate student also in the Chemistry Department and Allen Chang, Maria Ly and Joseph Watabe, all undergraduates in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences.

This research was supported by grants number P50 AG05146 and R01 AG034613 from the National Institute on Aging as well as CHE-1213438 from the National Science Foundation.

Related link:
Yassa Lab at UC-Irvine: http://yassalab.org/


Links to More Archived Stories About Coffee

A coffee good to the last drop? Well maybe not for senior citizens, especially at $60 a cup

Civet eats coffee berry, passes the bean during its regular digestive process before being roasted and named Kopi Luwak

By Bill Kalmar, Retiree - Aug. 29, 2013


Seniors’ favorite drink wins again: four or more cups of coffee a day puts brakes on prostate cancer

Researchers see very big drop in this cancer for heavy coffee drinkers, but no drop in deaths; also find dangers for some men - Aug. 26, 2013


Warning on death risk from too much coffee does not apply to senior citizens

Only young people under 55 should avoid heavy coffee consumption, suggests new study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings

By Tucker Sutherland, editor, SeniorJournal.com

August 19, 2013


Crisis Looms for Senior Citizens as 'Coffee Rust' Wipes Out Production of Their Favorite Drink

A survey of seniors years ago found most prefer coffee to sex, but this devotion to caffeine may get challenged by an expected jump in price due to wide-spread fungus attack blamed on growing methods

Feb. 12, 2013


Moderate Coffee Drinking Good for Your Heart; Favorite Senior Drink Wins Again

Good news may warrant changes to current heart failure prevention guidelines of American Heart Association that say coffee drinking may be risky for heart patients; bit of bad news - excess coffee bad! - June 27, 2012


Does Coffee Deserve Credit for Boom in Senior Citizen Population?

Massive study declares coffee drinkers have lower risk of death; seniors have declared coffee more important that sex - see video - May 17, 2012


Coffee Antioxidant Properties May Protect Women Against Uterine Cancer

Drinking more than four cups of coffee daily cut risk by 25%; coffee fast-emerging as protective against a number of diseases- see video - Nov. 28, 2011


Coffee, Favorite Drink of Seniors, Provides Protection from Basal Cell Carcinoma

Women get almost twice as much protection as men among 3-cup a day drinkers - see video - Oct. 26, 2011


Older Women See Depressions Go Down as Coffee Drinking Goes Up

Depression is chronic and recurring condition affecting twice as many women as men; includes about 1 of every 5 U.S. women - Sept. 26, 2011


Coffee Drinking Fights Off Prostate and Breast Cancer: Happy Older Americans Month

Senior citizens say they will give up sex before coffee; must be delighted with latest news on how it protects both sexes from most prominent cancers

May 19, 2011


More Evidence that Coffee Protects from Diabetes; Caffeine Probably the Cause

Encouraging news for seniors who are major targets of diabetes and love coffee

June 8, 2010


New Study Says Caffeine Slows Alzheimer's, Other Dementias, Restores Cognitive Function

Positive impact of caffeine on cognition and memory performance, other benefits of caffeine in special supplement to the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease - (Amsterdam) May 17, 2010


Regular Coffee, Decaf and Tea All Associated With Reduced Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

Info more than doubled since coffee first linked to reducing diabetes risk; unlikely just related to caffeine

Dec. 14, 2009


Favorite Drink of Senior Citizens, Coffee Appears to Fight Advanced Prostate Cancer

More good news for senior men is FDA consideration of prostate cancer vaccine, Provenge

Dec. 8, 2009


Caffeine Miraculously Restores Memory in Old Mice with Alzheimer’s Disease Symptoms

Coffee, the favorite drink of senior citizens, sure to get more popular with discovery of the memory recovery power of five cups a day that reduces beta-amyloid protein in blood

July 6, 2009


Good News for Seniors: Coffee Kills Pain When You Exercise, May Help Performance, Too

But does that reduction in pain translate into an improvement in sport performance?

April 1, 2009


Older Women Lower Stroke Risk by Drinking Coffee Frequently and Not Smoking

It only works for healthy women but two cups a day does the trick; unfortunately, many heavy coffee drinkers tend to smoke

Feb. 17, 2009


Seniors Will Appreciate Study Finding Coffee Drinkers Less Likely to Get Alzheimer’s in Old Age

Drinking 3-5 cups per day shows best results – lowers Alzheimer’s risk by 65%

Jan. 28, 2009


Women Drinking Large Amounts of Coffee May Lower Their Risk of Death

Study finds coffee drinkers – caffeinated and decaf - with slightly lower death rates; men about even

June 17, 2008 - Video link in story


Chemists Say They Now Know How to Remove Bitterness from Coffee

Great news for senior citizens who already prefer coffee to sex

Aug. 22, 2007


Older Women Who Drink Three Cups of Coffee Daily Protect Memory

Caffeine appears to reduce cognitive decline, but not in men

Aug. 7, 2007


Drinking Coffee May Offer Senior Men Protection from Gout Arthritis

Something in coffee lowers uric acid levels in blood - May 25, 2007


Senior Citizens Drinking Lots of Caffeine Lower Risk of Heart Disease Death

No significant protective effect in patients below the age of 65 - Feb. 23, 2007


Senior Citizens Find Surprisingly ‘Good News’ in 30 Years of Coffee Research

'Many negative health myths about coffee drinking may now be transformed into validated health benefits' - Jan. 22, 2007


Most Adults Won’t Give Up Sex for Staying Young, Senior Citizens Won’t Give Up Coffee

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Adding Sugar to Your Coffee Could Lead to Pancreatic Cancer

Adding sugar to food or drinks five times a day increases risk 70% - Nov. 8, 2006


Senior Coffee Addicts Who Choose Decaf to Avoid Caffeine May Be in for a Jolt

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Coffee Drinking Associated with Lower Risk for Alcohol-Related Liver Disease

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Even Excessive Coffee Drinking Does Not Increase Risk of Coronary Heart Disease

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Is Coffee the Solution to Everything from Cancer to Female Sex Drive?

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