Whenever I come across a study touting the benefits of vices like chocolate, coffee or wine, I always feel compelled to write about it. “Take that!” I want to shout to all the nutritionists, personal trainers and healthy lifestyle books that unequivocally advise limiting these substances. I want to drink my coffee and devour my chocolate without guilt—and perhaps do so with a smug sense of my-body-is-my-temple ethos.
This glass of wine? Why, just my new wellness elixir, of course.
So I was particularly excited when I read new research finding that caffeine, principally from coffee, may offer protection against Alzheimer’s disease in adults older than 65.
In a study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, scientists assessed the cognitive status and blood caffeine levels of 124 people aged 65-88 years over a 2-4 year period. Study participants who drank moderate levels of coffee—around 3 cups per day—experienced significant delay of Alzheimer’s, even if they were already showing early signs of the disease (called mild cognitive impairment, or MCI).
This news arrives in the wake of several previous studies outlining the positive effects of coffee. In 2012 alone, I’ve seen research connecting coffee to reduced risk of fibrosis, type 2 diabetes, endometrial cancer, and even death. A 2011 study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that risk of depression was lowered up to 20 percent in women who drank four cups of caffeinated coffee per day.
But despite coffee’s benefits, experts frequently advise to limit caffeine for increased energy. Just yesterday I conducted an interview regarding the effects of sugar with a naturopathic doctor. She told me that caffeine consumption stimulates the adrenal glands (which produce adrenaline, cortisol, and other “fight or flight” stress responses), eventually causing intense fatigue and cravings for sugar. If you’ve experienced a crash following a particularly zealous coffee binge you know what I’m talking about.
But will I give up my coffee habit? Will I relegate myself to (admittedly delicious) but otherwise drug-free herbal tea?
Absolutely not—I gain too much joy out of consuming it, and I predict that my efficiency answering emails would drop well below an acceptable rate. But I’ll keep it to two cups per day, and replace that 3 p.m. slump with something more beneficial... like dark chocolate. You should see the wealth of positive cocoa studies out there.
Does the latest research inspire you to change your coffee habits? Leave a comment.