Consuming caffeine is a lifestyle for many individuals. Most people can testify how drinking their morning cup of joe can increase brain functions — such as alertness and focus on doing tasks — and help them get ready to take on their day. Learn the long-term effects of caffeine and how it alters cognition.
1. Ingesting More Caffeine May Boost Long-Term Memory
It’s common knowledge caffeine has instant brain-enhancing effects on drinkers. However, one particular study conducted by Johns Hopkins University experts looked at caffeine’s long-term benefits, specifically in reinforcing memory abilities and resisting forgetfulness.
Researchers showed a series of images to participants who ingested 200 milligrams of caffeine tablets. The next day, these people could tell the pictures they saw yesterday apart from similar ones.
Based on the findings, one of the long-term effects of caffeine is to improve a function known as “pattern separation” in the hippocampus area. It refers to the brain’s ability to differentiate two similar-looking things.
For example, when you search for something online, Google will bring up multiple results relevant to your query. Your pattern separation will kick in, filter those most aligned with your search and overlook irrelevant answers.
2. The Long-Term Effects of Caffeine May Reduce Depression
Coffee is the world’s favorite caffeine beverage and taking a small dose daily may help reduce depression. Mental health disorders change the brain’s function, which projects outwardly through mood swings, restlessness, and other challenging emotional and behavioral symptoms. Researchers hypothesized drinking coffee could minimize these occurrences.
Worldwide research by the U.S. National Coffee Association found drinking at least two cups of coffee daily decreases the risk of depression by 32% over non-drinkers. The caffeine in coffee acts as a separator, preventing receptors in the brain from binding with a chemical that triggers a depressive state and fatigue. Thanks to the beverage’s anti-oxidative, anti-inflammatory and microbiome-promoting properties, caffeine’s effects on the brain can lead to better moods after a cup or two.
On top of that, coffee also promotes gut health, decreasing the incidence of depression caused by abnormalities in the gut. Coffee has a compound called prebiotics that feed the probiotics necessary to maintain normal stomach function. You can reap these benefits, but keep your caffeine intake moderate.
3. Drinking It May Increase Brain Entropy
Entropy is an essential feature in brain function — high entropy means the brain is more capable of processing information. Researchers conducted one study to determine whether ingesting 200 mg of caffeine pills would alter brain entropy.
Sixty healthy individuals took them. Imaging scans later found they have increased resting brain entropy, suggesting an elevated capacity of the brain to process information. Brain entropy increase was the highest in the lateral prefrontal cortex, visual cortex, the default mode network and motor network. These areas play a role in attention, vigilance, action and motion function.
4. Caffeine Could Also Delay Cognitive Decline
One of the most studied and widely praised long-term effects of caffeine is its potential to slow cognitive decline among the older population. Claims state drinking a few cups of coffee daily can decrease your risk of Alzheimer’s by up to 65% in the later stages of your life.
Several studies were performed to support this claim. One was on 227 older adults with normal cognition who participated in a 126-month-long study. The goal was to find out coffee’s role in brain function. It turns out the habit of drinking coffee was positively associated with executive function, attention and Preclinical Alzheimer’s Cognitive Composite score, which measures the first signs of cognitive impairment.
Furthermore, coffee drinkers with normal cognitive function had a lower risk of developing mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease, and were affiliated with a slower build-up of Aβ-amyloid — a neurotoxin signifying a brain decline. Overall, the study established consuming coffee can provide a protective barrier against Alzheimer’s disease.
5. Taking It In May Enhance Your Processing Speed
Caffeine’s effects on the brain also encompass improved processing speed. This brain feature refers to how fast you can spot and respond to environmental changes. It’s an ability applicable in many situations, such as transitioning from one exercise pattern to another and doing basic math calculations. Although there were conflicting results, two out of four studies showed a positive connection between processing speed and caffeine intake.
A similar study that combines apple juice with polyphenols and 75 mg of caffeine had identical findings of improved information processing speed. The 37.5 mg of caffeine and apple extract enhanced alertness and reduced fatigue.
Caffeine May Support Better Brain Functions
Although these studies show the positive effects of caffeine, it’s essential to consider your source. Most studies discussing the brain-altering advantages of caffeine were from coffee, which has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant components. Consuming energy drinks, soda and supplements may not merit the same health benefits as caffeine obtained from coffee.
Summarizing all study results, the long-term effects of caffeine can benefit the brain. It can boost particular neurological functions and slow degenerative impairment in older people.