Image of coffee cup and coffee stain

The curious case of caffeine

Can a couple cups of java a day – or more – help stave off Alzheimer’s or dementia?

If you’re a woman over age 65, the idea is worth further study.

Ira Driscoll, UWM assistant professor of psychology, found higher caffeine intake in women over 65 was associated with reduced chances of developing dementia or other cognitive impairments. The research was published in the Journals of Gerontology and released Oct. 1, 2016, on International Coffee Day.

UWM researcher: Caffeine could reduce the risk of developing dementia

Driscoll emphasizes that the study didn’t imply a cause-and-effect relationship, but she believes the potential protective benefits are worth further exploration. “We’re not saying it’s a be-all and end-all and that it will prevent anyone from getting dementia,” she says, “but it’s good to know since so many people drink coffee.”

The research looked at 6,467 women who reported drinking caffeinated beverages daily. Those who drank more than 261 milligrams of caffeine per day – between two and three cups of coffee – showed a lower risk of developing dementia or cognitive impairment 10 years later than those who drank less.

The study by itself doesn’t mean older women should start binging on coffee, but Driscoll thinks it should spark a closer look at the increased caffeine intake. “It doesn’t seem to be harmful,” she says, “and there’s some evidence from non-human research as to what the potential mechanisms might be.”

The data analyzed were drawn from the Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study of women between the ages of 65 and 80 who were followed for up to 10 years.