Are you an avid coffee drinker? If you answered ‘yes’, you may be doing your brain a big favour. Recently, a review study showed that people drinking coffee regularly (3-5 cups per day) were 65% less likely to develop cognitive decline, dementia and alzheimer’s disease.
That is pretty impressive, what is actually going on here?
Coffee & Glutathione Connection
One important mechanism is the activation of a genetic pathway called Nrf2, responsible for up-regulating the production of the potent antioxidant glutathione to help quench free radicals. Glutathione is your ‘universal’ antioxidant, meaning it exerts it’s beneficial effects in water-soluble environments like your bloodstream and water-insoluble environments like your cell membranes. If you're overweight, out of shape or in poor health you're body's antioxidant defence system will be working over-time to put out all the little inflammatory "fires" across the body, depleting your glutathione status.
Coffee & Blood Sugar Connection
The other major benefit most likely stems from coffee’s ability to support better insulin function. With 75% of the north American population categorized as overweight or obese, nutrients that help to restore better insulin and blood sugar balance will likely also benefit the brain. Caffeine in the form of coffee looks to be highly beneficial for those with blood sugar and insulin abnormalities. Once again, if you're struggling with weight gain or poor health you should also aim to follow a low-carb diet and get regular movement in your day to improve chronically high insulin levels
However, one word of caution… drinking 3 or more cups of coffee per day (as suggested by the study) can lead to symptoms of irritability, anxiousness, jitters, and exhaustion in some people. I typically recommend most people stick to 1-2 cups per day, all before noon. If you need a little pick me up in the afternoon, stick with green tea. Remember, if you are adding sugar to your coffee you are negating much of the health benefits, so back off the sweeteners and drink your coffee black or with cream.
There you have it… get in your regular cup of joe to keep your brain sharp as you age!
Dr. Marc Bubbs ND, CISSN, CSCS
Want to learn more about the benefits (and potential drawbacks) of coffee? Listen to Nanci Guest PhD (cand) in Episode #6 of the Dr. Bubbs Performance Podcast...