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Coffee and tea may reduce your risk of stroke and dementia, new study finds

Your morning cup of joe provides a few brain-boosting benefits.

Are you a coffee drinker? Your brain may thank you for it. A new study, published in the journal PLOS Medicine, found that individuals who drank four to six cups of coffee a day, along with drinking tea, had a lower incidence of stroke and dementia.

The current study derived data from over 350,000 healthy individuals between the ages of 50 and 74 and assessed both coffee and tea consumption. The benefits were seen in individuals who drank coffee alone, or along with tea. Compared to those who did not drink tea or coffee, the risk of dementia and stroke was reduced by 28%. Though the study could not prove cause and effect, it serves of yet another reason why including coffee in your dietary pattern makes sense.

The benefits of coffee go well beyond the brain

Previous studies have shown that coffee provides health benefits. After all, it is a dark-colored plant with polyphenols similar to those found in fruits and vegetables. Multiple studies have found an association between moderate consumption of coffee and better brain health, including a reduced risk of cognitive decline and Parkinson’s disease. Research has also indicated a reduction of certain cancers, improved liver health, a reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes, and a reduced risk of heart failure as other potential benefits.

What role does caffeine play?

When individuals drink regular coffee, they are drinking the compounds associated with the bean, as well as the psychoactive stimulant, caffeine. Therefore, multiple studies have been done to assess which component has the greatest impact to health. A 2017 study in Annals of Internal Medicine found that coffee drinkers lived longer than non-coffee drinkers and that the benefits of increased mortality were seen regardless of whether the coffee was caffeinated or decaffeinated. Individuals who drank at least two to three cups a day had an 18% reduced risk of death.

Can you have too much of a good thing?

A recent study from Australia found that having six or more cups of coffee a day could increase the risk of dementia by as much as 53% compared to individuals who enjoyed only one to two cups per day. The risk of decreased brain volume was also observed. Additionally, individuals with certain genetic predispositions may be more at risk with high levels of caffeine consumption. Certain variants of the CYP1A2 gene can lead to increased sensitivity to caffeine and thus, an increased risk of heart problems. This can be especially risky for individuals who experience heart arrhythmias. Also, individuals who are pregnant, breastfeeding, suffer from ulcers, or have sleep disorders or migraines should refrain from coffee consumption. The bottom line, moderate consumption (defined as three to four cups daily or 400 mg of caffeine) appears to the sweet spot for a health boost.

The best way to brew coffee

Before you can reap the benefits of coffee in your cup, you’ll need to know how to buy, store, and brew it. Experts believe that beans grown at higher altitudes have higher polyphenol content. Therefore, focusing on getting your joe from coffee sourced in areas such as Central and South America may make sense to get the maximum benefit. Though data is scarce on the benefits of organic vs non organic coffee, if your goal is to avoid pesticides on the bean, an organic option will help to achieve that.

A 2020 study in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology found that brewing coffee with a paper filter is optimal for the best impact on heart health. This is because paper filters remove compounds in the coffee that may impact the risk of heart attack.

Additionally, since coffee can react to environmental elements, it’s recommended to store coffee away from light, heat, air and moisture. If you are not planning on using coffee within a week you should store in the freezer in a container or bag that will resist freezer burn.

Be smart about add-ins

Ready to dive in and enjoy the benefits of your perfectly brewed coffee? You might want to hold the artificial creamers and added sugars. To get the best impact from your coffee without hurting your health, you should enjoy it either black, or without any added sweeteners. You can find multiple creamers available in your local grocery store with limited ingredients, no added sugars, and free of additives. You can also consider whole milk or ½ and ½ as an option as well or opt for versions made with coconut or almond milk if you chose to go dairy free.

Bottom line: Enjoying coffee and tea in moderation may be part of the recipe for a longer, healthier life.