Following news earlier this week linking coffee drinking to hallucinations, researchers from the University of Kuopio, Finland have found that drinking coffee may do your brain some good.
While drinking more than seven cups of coffee a day may make you more likely to hear non-existent voices, drinking three to five cups a day could lower your risk of Alzheimer's disease by 65 percent.
In this new study, 1,400 middle-aged people recorded their coffee intake. The amount of coffee they drank on a daily basis was compared to their risk of developing dementia over 20 years later.
At mid-life, coffee drinkers had lower risks of dementia and Alzheimer's later in life compared with those drinking little or no coffee.
The result held after researchers took other factors that could affect dementia into account, such as age, education and underlying illnesses.
Smaller studies have found a link between caffeine and lower risks of developing Alzheimer's. The new study is unique because of its long follow-up time.
Just how coffee might protect the brain isn't known but there are some theories.
One theory is the "use it or lose" hypothesis. Since caffeine stimulates brain activity coffee drinkers may engage in more mentally stimulating activities than their less-caffeinated counterparts.
Another theory is that the polyphenolic antioxidants in coffee may play a role in preventing Alzheimer's disease.
About 500,000 Canadians are living with Alzheimer's disease or a related dementia, according to the Alzheimer's Society. More than 71,000 of them are under the age of 65.
Looking for different ways to enjoy your cup of Joe? Check out our March 2006 Featured Food for coffee recipes.
This study was published in the January 2009 issue of the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.
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