By TAP Integrative

More than 5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease, a neurodegenerative disorder characterized by memory loss, cognitive impairment and beta-amyloid deposition in the brain. Age is a significant risk factor for cognitive decline, but complex interactions between genetics and lifestyle are also at play. One lifestyle choice that may offer some protection against age-related cognitive decline, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease is consumption of caffeine.

Human epidemiological studies generally report an inverse relationship between caffeine intake and cognitive decline, but not all results have been consistent. In animal models of Alzheimer’s disease, caffeine protects against behavioral changes and beta-amyloid deposition.

Caffeine is thought to exert its neuroprotective effect primarily by blocking adenosine receptors, which are implicated in both normal and pathological cognitive decline.

In a study published in the Journals of Gerontology, Driscoll and colleagues evaluated the relationship between caffeine consumption and incidence of probable dementia or global cognitive impairment in postmenopausal women. The study included 6,467 women enrolled in the Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study (WHIMS).

All women were free of dementia at baseline. Caffeine intake data were based on self-report at baseline using the food frequency questionnaire. Women were prospectively followed for up to 10 years and assessed annually for global cognitive function.

A total of 388 women received a diagnosis of probable dementia over the course of the study. After adjusting for other risk factors, women consuming above median levels of caffeine were less likely to develop dementia (hazard ratio = 0.74; 95% CI, 0.56-0.99) or any cognitive impairment (hazard ratio = 0.74; 95% CI, 0.60-0.91) than women consuming below median levels. The women in the group consuming above median levels had a mean intake of 261 mg [equivalent to approximately three 8-ounce cups of brewed coffee] caffeine per day, whereas the women in the group consuming below median levels had a mean intake of 64 mg per day.

The results of this study, based on prospective data from a large cohort of postmenopausal women, lend strong support to an inverse relationship between caffeine consumption and age-related cognitive decline.


Driscoll I, Shumaker SA, Snively BM, et al. Relationships Between Caffeine Intake and Risk for Probable Dementia or Global Cognitive Impairment: The Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2016.