Is coffee good for your memory? A Harvard brain expert shares how she gets the most out of its health benefits

Coffee is one of the world’s most consumed beverages. And, given the massive amount of research being conducted today on the effects of what we eat on our health, it’s unsurprising that these ground seeds are being investigated.

The question is: To what extent is coffee beneficial to the brain?

In 2017, Boukje van Gelder and colleagues published a study in which they examined 676 elderly men over a ten-year period to determine whether coffee protected them from cognitive decline. They discovered that men who consumed coffee experienced less cognitive decline than men who did not.

The greatest effect was observed in those who drank three cups of coffee daily, with less dramatic effects observed in those who drank more or less.

How coffee can aid in brain protection and memory

As a nutritional psychiatrist, Harvard Medical School faculty member, and author of “This Is Your Brain on Food,” I am most intrigued by the positive relationship between coffee and psychological health.

The following are just a few of the numerous ways coffee can benefit the brain:

Caffeine elevates serotonin and acetylcholine levels, stimulating the brain and assisting in the stabilisation of the blood-brain barrier.

Coffee’s polyphenol micronutrients may help prevent tissue damage caused by free radicals, as well as blood vessel blockage in the brain.

Coffee beans contain a high concentration of trigonelline, which may also activate antioxidants, thereby protecting brain blood vessels.

Bear in mind, however, that not all components of coffee are beneficial. For example, unfiltered coffee contains natural oils called diterpenes, which raise LDL cholesterol levels, potentially resulting in the thickening and hardening of the brain’s artery walls.

How to make coffee more stimulating to the brain

Through my research and studies, I’ve discovered that when consumed in moderation, coffee has more beneficial effects than negative ones.

It is recommended to consume two to four cups of coffee per day, or less than 400 milligrammes of caffeine. Consuming dark-roasted, freshly ground coffee beans may also help minimise the presence of undesirable chemicals in your beverage.

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