In a large telephone survey conducted last year by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), one in eight men and women over 60 years reported experiencing memory lapses that have been “happening more often or getting worse” over the past 12 months. Plus, 35 percent of these men and women said their confusion or memory loss interfered with their work, social activities, or ability to do household chores.
Yet, astonishingly, just 19 percent of them reported ever discussing their memory loss concerns with a healthcare provider.
The fact is, mainstream medical practice has very little to offer when it comes to supporting cognitive health. And in terms of public health, two “decades of the brain” initiatives have still not been enough to get adequate attention or funding from the government. Let alone effective treatments. Instead, funding gets funneled to the never-ending “war on cancer” and misguided heart disease campaigns.
So older adults who want to stay mentally sharp must find their own solutions.
It’s no wonder online “brain training” programs like “Lumosity” now have more than 60 million users. Games on these websites are designed to exercise cognitive abilities such as attention, flexibility, memory, processing, and problem solving. These games “exercise” the brain on a computer screen, so you “use it” and don’t “lose it.”
But there is much more you can do to support your brain besides playing computer games.
Three years ago, I recognized this gaping void in mainstream care and began to formulate some natural solutions to brain health. Of course, the “natural know-it-alls” are now climbing on the brain bandwagon too. They realize various nutrients are important for brain and nervous system health. In fact, the natural products industry now offers any number of gimmicky, catchy, “new” brain health products.
These products may sound “high tech,” but they usually rely on some “magic bullet” approach that’s been recycled from a “heart” miracle…or “anti-aging” answer…into a supposedly “revolutionary” brain solution.
Don’t be fooled.
The real natural brain boosters are hiding in plain sight.
In fact, a recent scientific review evaluated the use of coffee (Coffea arabica) and caffeine to prevent or delay age-related cognitive decline and dementia. The study also evaluated the influence of coffee and caffeine on aging and age-related diseases.
Of course, previous research showed caffeine and caffeinated coffee can improve short-term alertness, attention and memory. But controlled clinical trials and longer-term studies that follow the impact of caffeine on the eventual development of actual brain diseases cost much more. And funding for this kind of serious, long-term research is scarce in the government’s drug-addled world of grants.
Despite these funding limitations, the reviewers found a clear trend toward cognitive protection and positive effects of caffeine in dementia prevention.
In my experience, when researchers observe a clear trend–despite limitations in the research–it’s usually a sign the effect is strong enough to be seen even without stronger research design and methods.
In other words, “where there’s smoke, there’s fire.”
And when it comes to preventing and delaying dementia, a steaming cup of hot coffee may be just what you need.
Caffeine appears to have many positive influences on the body. For example, it positively affects blood circulation, vascular supply, inflammation, and glucose metabolism. All these factors play important roles in preventing cognitive diseases, as well as cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.
Of course, as with all natural approaches, dose is important. And it appears you need to get about 350 mg of caffeine–or about three cups of coffee–per day. We don’t yet know how many years you have to drink three cups per day to gain these benefits. (Again, there is no funding for controlled long-term or “lifetime” studies.)
Of course, researchers know coffee contains many other beneficial constituents in addition to caffeine. For example, several polyphenols appear to have even greater neuroprotective effects than caffeine.
Drinking three to four cups of caffeinated coffee per day has clear, short-term brain benefits. And probably long-term benefits as well.
I report on many of these benefits in the November 2014 issue of my Insiders’ Cures newsletter. I also put aside the myth that four cups of coffee per day causes dehydration. In that issue, I also reviewed four common problems of the brain and nervous system for which the mainstream has little to offer. Then I presented the evidence about natural approaches you can use to protect yourself. And offered some ideas about how and why these diseases have been so neglected.
- “Current evidence for the use of coffee and caffeine to prevent age-related cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease,” Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging 2014: 18(4): 383-392
- “Self-Reported Increased Confusion or Memory Loss and Associated Functional Difficulties Among Adults Aged ≥60 Years — 21 States, 2011,” Centers for Disease Control (www.cdc.com) 5/10/2013