older women preserve their memory, a new French study shows.
Researchers included Karen Ritchie, PhD, of the French National Institute
for Health and Medical Research (INSERM) in Montpellier, France.
Ritchie's team studied some 7,000 men and women aged 65 and older (average
age: 74) in three French cities: Bordeaux, Dijon, and Montpellier.
When the study started, participants reported how many daily cups of tea and
coffee they drank. They also noted all of their medications, since some drugs
contain caffeine. Few drank colas or cocoa, which also contain caffeine.
Participants took several tests of their mental skills, including a memory
test based on a list of words. They repeated those tests two years later and
again four years after the study began.
Women who reported drinking at least three cups of coffee or tea per day at
the study's start showed less of a drop in their test scores during the study,
compared with women who reported consuming at most one daily cup of tea or
The biggest benefit was seen in the women's verbal memory.
It didn't matter if the women favored coffee or tea. That finding suggests
that the caffeine was what mattered most, according to the researchers.
But caffeine didn't seem to affect women's risk of developing dementia,
including Alzheimer's disease. The study may have been too short to show such a
benefit, the researchers note.
What about men? The data show no caffeine benefits in men's test scores over
the years. Women may be more sensitive to caffeine's effects, according to
Ritchie and colleagues.
Caffeine consumption may merely be aB marker of other health habits that
affect memory. Ritchie's team considered that possibility. The study's results
Still, observational studies such as this one don't prove cause and effect.
That is, the researchers didn't directly test caffeine to see whether it helps
save women's memory.
By Miranda Hitti
Reviewed by Louise Chang
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