Coffee – Friend or Foe for Brain Function?
Written by Chantelle van der Weyden BPsych (Hons), AdvDip(Nat), AdvDip(NutMed)
Coffee is a substance that many of us have formed quite an attachment to. It brings not only ritual, joy and connection but comes with a multitude of health benefits when it comes to brain function. Coffee and caffeine may increase alertness and concentration, while also reducing depression and enhancing mood and overall wellbeing. Coffee and caffeine intake may also reduce the risk of neurodegeneration.
While the research currently remains inconclusive, observational data suggests that coffee consumption at approximately 3-5 cups per day (i.e. 400mg) is associated with a lower risk of cognitive decline, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
While this is great news for coffee drinkers, there are those for whom coffee is not suitable. Coffee can exacerbate symptoms of anxiety and may not be appropriate for those experiencing significant stress or HPA dysregulation.
This is where our naturopathic tool kit comes in handy, as there are a variety of alternate ingredients we can use to enhance cognition, support brain function and reduce brain aging.
Research suggests that green tea enhances memory and attention and this is likely due to both its caffeine and l-theanine content. Green tea has also been associated with lower rates of cognitive impairment
Bacopa has been used traditionally as a memory and cognitive aid. This is likely due to its major active constituents, bacoaides A and B, which have been shown to have nootropic effects. Studies have demonstrated improvements in learning, memory and retention in healthy adults, and an improvement in symptoms in adults with memory impairment
One of the most studied herbal medicines, gingko has been used traditionally to support and enhance cognitive function. Gingko improves circulation, oxygenation and nutrition to brain tissue. Studies show that it improves memory and cognitive processing, while also improving symptoms associated with mild cognitive impairment and various types of dementia.
Be it your daily cup of coffee or green tea, or herbal medicines – there are a multitude of ways you can support cognition, enhance focus and concentration, and possibly protect your brain from aging.