Health benefits of coffee for seniors

Your morning cup of coffee may do more than just perk you up. Research from a number of sources has shown that drinking coffee has many potential health benefits. Two-thirds of Canadians say they drink coffee daily, from early adulthood into their retirement years.

Age-related diseases
One of the newest pieces of good news comes from a Harvard School of Public Health study following volunteers who changed their coffee intake. Those who drank an extra cup of coffee per day had a 10 per cent reduced risk of developing Type 2 diabetes over four years. Decreasing coffee consumption by the same amount led to a 17 per cent increase in risk for diabetes.

Another benefit of coffee of particular interest to seniors is its apparent ability to protect vision. The Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry published a study finding that coffee contains an antioxidant useful for preventing damage to the retina. Though further research is needed, the chemical was shown to fight vision loss and age-related eye diseases.

Coffee is also effective at fighting Parkinson's disease. According to the Parkinson Canada Society, the disease affected 100,000 people in 2007 and that rate is expected to double by 2016. Two studies published by the U.S.-based National Center for Biotechnology Information found links between caffeine consumption and Parkinson's. 

Your brain on coffee
Research from Johns Hopkins University has shown that caffeine can benefit those needing memory care. After taking caffeine equivalent to a strong cup of coffee, participants in the study were able to form new memories better and to recall them the next day. Specifically, they were better able to judge whether sets of images shown a day apart were the same or merely similar.

Coffee also helps the brain in other ways, at least for women. Anyone who drinks it regularly knows that coffee is a great way to life your spirits. Now studies have confirmed that women who drink caffeinated coffee have a lower risk of depression. Four or more cups were needed to get the full effect, so benefits may only be seen in the highly caffeinated; however, the benefit in question was a 20 per cent reduction in depression rates among the women studied. Though the effect was only shown in women in this case, other studies have suggested that men's moods can benefit as well.

Not all good news
Despite all its benefits, caffeine is still a drug that should be used in moderation. The Journal of Caffeine Research reported that excessive consumption can lead to addiction with withdrawal symptoms including headache, dizziness, depression, irritability and confusion. The effect was found in those who took more than 400 milligrams of caffeine per day, or about four cups of coffee.

So if you're looking to reduce your risk of age-related diseases and improve your memory, why not enjoy a cup of coffee with fellow retirement residents in your senior living community?