Coffee is one of the most well-known drinks in almost any part of the world. Whether you live in the US, Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Central America, or Africa, you will mostly encounter this hot (or cold) beverage.
Coffee is famous for its energy-boosting benefits, thanks to its caffeine content. However, there are a variety of other health benefits that come with drinking a few cups of black coffee a day. Unfortunately, not all things said about coffee is good. In fact, in the past, people have antagonized coffee and linked it to many potential health problems.
However, recent studies show that coffee not only gives us an energy boost, but it can actually give us tons of health benefits, many of which you may not even know!
For instance, coffee can help you burn fat and reduce your risk of liver disease and type 2 diabetes. Coffee is also a major source of antioxidants in many Western diets, and many coffee-drinkers may not even know this. It not only tastes great, but it can help decrease your risk of heart disease as well.
It is said that coffee is good for our brain, our memory in particular, but how true is this? What can coffee really do to increase our memory and brain health?
Let’s find out below!
Active Ingredients of Coffee
To understand how coffee can affect our brain, it is important to look at its active ingredients and how they will affect us.
As mentioned above, contrary to our first belief that coffee is bad, coffee actually contains a wide variety of health benefits. Many of its building blocks are actually bioactive compounds with antioxidant properties, making it a powerful antioxidant. Needless to say, though, you have to use coffee properly to achieve its benefits. A sugar-filled Chocolate Mocha Frappuccino, although yummy, is certainly not healthy!
It’s not the added features, like creamer, dairy-free milk, or sugar, that provide the health benefits of a cup of coffee, but the coffee grinds themselves.
Let’s explore the active ingredients of coffee that have an impact on your health:
This is the main active ingredient of coffee and the one that makes coffee famous. Caffeine is a psychoactive substance that stimulates our central nervous system. It helps reduce fatigue, as well as stimulate our nervous system, providing a beneficial impact on our longevity.
2) Chlorogenic acids
Chlorogenic acids or CGAs are polyphenol antioxidants that can affect some of our bodily activities like high blood pressure and blood sugar metabolism – which both affect and increase our risk to mental decline as we age. This is beneficial as high blood pressure is something a large portion of people around the world battle with.
Trigonelline, an alkaloid compound, is found in coffee. It forms nicotinic acid or niacin (vitamin B3) when roasted. Vitamin B3 can help our body in a variety of ways including reducing the symptoms of arthritis, preventing the risk of heart disease, and aiding in mental health issues.
4) Kahweol and cafestol
Kahweol and cafestol can be found in coffee’s natural oils. You can get lots of these compounds in an unfiltered coffee. Kahweol and cafestol both have positive effects on your liver and can even protect you against certain types of cancer. Although beneficial in moderation, too much of the compounds can raise LDL or “bad” cholesterol.
Depending on your coffee, the ingredient count will vary based on a number of factors. These factors include the type of coffee beans you use, the length of roast time per your coffee beans, and how often you drink coffee.
How Coffee Interacts With The Brain
Coffee affects our brain primarily through its caffeine content, which stimulates our central nervous system in numerous ways. Among the effects of caffeine on our brain, the most recognizable is how caffeine interacts with our adenosine receptors.
Adenosine is a neurotransmitter that signals the brain when to sleep. Adenosine can signal your brain to “tell” it to go to sleep by plugging into what we call adenosine receptors. Once plugged in, it will deliver its message, ultimately slowing down neural activity and we’ll become sleepy afterward.
Caffeine and adenosine both have a similar structural composition. This means that caffeine can actually fit into our adenosine receptors the same way actual adenosine fits in on its receptors. You can think of it in terms of keys: caffeine as the duplicate key while adenosine as the actual key.
Once caffeine enters your system, it starts to travel to your adenosine receptors and begin plugging themselves there. Once plugged in, they’ll block out adenosine from plugging in. As a result, adenosine cannot send the “go to sleep” message to your brain; essentially, caffeine actually prevents you from slowing down and getting to feel sleepy. Once that happens, this gives us the stimulation we’re all looking for from our coffee.
This addresses more of the short term benefit of coffee, but it can also be dangerous. If we rely on caffeine to keep us awake too often, it can cause long-term damage or short-term burn-out.
Benefits of Coffee For Our Memory
Since caffeine affects our cognition to some degree, it makes sense to wonder if it will affect our memory as well.
So far, there is no single answer to the question of whether coffee can or cannot enhance memory, but current research says that coffee has a positive impact on our memory. Although evidence shows that it can help enhance memory, it is not yet clear how exactly it improves our memory and to what extent.
Researchers either look into short-term memory or long-term memory when researching this topic. The positive effects of coffee on short-term memory is more established than long-term memory; however, as it is only short-term memory, this means that the effect of coffee over memory is just for a certain period of time only.
Besides, it is not surprising that caffeine will improve short-term memory because the caffeine in itself enhances your cognition. The big question now is: will coffee and caffeine improve our long-term memory?
A research team led by Daniel Borota of the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore decided to conduct a study regarding caffeine’s effect on long-term memory.
To do this, the team studied 160 participants with an age range of 18-30 years old.
On the first day of the research, the participants were given pictures of different objects and they were asked to identify them either as “outdoor” or “indoor” objects. Once the task was completed, one group received 200mg of pill caffeine and another, a placebo tablet.
The following day, the participants were again shown the same pictures they had seen the previous day plus a few new ones. This time, the researchers asked them to identify if the pictures are “old”, “new” or “similar to the original pictures.” This will lead to the answer on whether or not caffeine can affect long-term memory.
Here are the results
Both groups (200mg of caffeine and placebo) were able to accurately identify whether the picture was new or old. So, the research team decided to dig further into the matter.
The research team decided to adjust the caffeine content into 100mg and 300mg respectively to see how the participants will perform. Under 100mg of caffeine, participants performed poorly, but 300mg of caffeine did not add any significant improvement on the participants’ performance.
This led the researchers to conclude that 200mg is the perfect dose of caffeine needed to enhance memory. It is noteworthy that performance will not improve if the participants are tested an hour after taking the caffeine.
Now, this is promising research that coffee and caffeine can enhance our long-term memory. However, further research, as the researchers themselves noted, is needed to understand the link between caffeine and long-term memory.
Keep in mind that the research studied relatively young people. Those participating were 18-30 years old, so it is not clear if the same effect will apply to older people. It is also not clear on up to what extent will coffee and caffeine affects our long-term memory. But at the very least, caffeine seems a promising improver of long-term memory.
So, Should You Try Drinking Coffee To Boost Your Memory?
Coffee and caffeine tout a variety of health benefits that we may not even be aware of; one of which is enhancing our memory. It makes sense to say that caffeine, as a cognitive enhancer, can enhance our memory as well.
However, it is still not yet clear to what extent will coffee and caffeine affects and improve our memory.
Lastly, keep in mind that this best applies to healthy coffee – sugary coffee like your favorite Frappuccino will not give you the best of coffee’s health benefits. While these coffees are delicious, the sugar can derail the benefits.
Are you thinking about giving coffee a try after reading this blog post? If you are in need of coffee beans, you can also shop all of our coffee beans here! Also, be sure to check out one of our recent posts on unique coffee drink recipes here.