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Coffee Helps Prevent Dementia and Alzheimer's Disease

Coffee, It's Good For Your Brain


Updated February 18, 2009

Drink Coffee for Your Brain

Drink Coffee for Your Brain

Photo: Alex Cao / Getty Images
Could something as simple as coffee help prevent dementia? I would love it if my daily coffee fix was helping my future brain to prevent dementia and stay sharp in old age. That news would have me dancing (on a caffeine high) in the streets.

Coffee Lowers Dementia Risk

It looks like I’ll have to get my dancing shoes out, a recent study showed that people who drank coffee in their mid-life had much less risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease when they were older. Here’s what happened:

Researchers examined the records of over 1,400 people (in Sweden and Finland). These people were part of a study during their midlife and their coffee drinking habits had been recorded (20 years earlier). The researchers found that people who drank 3 to 5 cups of coffee a day, 20 years ago, were 65% less likely to develop dementia or Alzheimer’s disease as they aged.

More Detail on the Coffee – Dementia Study

Of the 1,400 people who were asked about their coffee drinking around age 50, 15.9% drank 0 to 2 cups per day; 45.6% drank 3 to 5 cups per day and 38.5% drank more than five cups a day. When it came to Alzheimer’s disease and dementia risk 20 years later, 48 people in the group had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and 61 with dementia.

Drink 3-5 Cups of Coffee to Lower Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease Risk

The middle group (3 to 5 cups a day) had the least cases of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Compared with the 0 to 2 cups group, the middle group was between 60 and 70% less likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. It does get complicated. The people who drank more than 5 cups of coffee a day were also more likely to be smokers. There may be other factors than coffee drinking alone that matter for dementia risk. We need to ask what makes a person drink no coffee, a moderate amount or a lot of coffee? Do coffee drinkers have different personalities or physical traits than coffee non-drinkers? How do things like stress, sleep problems and other coffee-related health conditions matter? Is there something about the coffee drinkers themselves (and not the coffee) that impacts dementia risk? (On a side note, the researchers also looked at people who drank tea versus those who did not and found no difference between the two groups regarding dementia and Alzheimer's disease risk).

One explanation (given by the research team) for the benefits of coffee drinking in reducing dementia risk is that coffee drinking has been shown in other studies to reduce the risk of type II diabetes. Diabetes is linked to a higher dementia and Alzheimer’s disease risk. So the pathway for the dementia and Alzheimer's disease protection benefits of coffee may be complex. But, to be honest, I'm not so concerned with why coffee seems to help with brain aging, I'm just glad it does. That's enough for me to make sure I get my three cups a day (besides the fact that I don't really function well without them).

Read More on Coffee and Health


Kivipelto, M. Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, January 2009; vol 16: pp 85-91.

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