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Coffee and Brain Health.

"Coffee and Brain Health" is one in a series of articles, written to
educate the healthcare community about the science behind the healthy
benefits of coffee.


Caffeine wasn't discovered until 1821, but the origin of coffee plants dates back to the 4th century, A.D., in Ethiopia. The earliest evidence of coffee drinking is from the 15th century, in the Sufi monasteries of Yemen. By the 16th century it had reached other parts of the world.

Only in recent years has the scientific community studied coffee in depth, and found premium coffee to be a superfood, rich in antioxidants and beneficial for health, performance, and longevity.

Due to the polyphenols found in coffee, the potential health benefits include protecting against cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, cancers, and more. It has also been found to enhance brain function and efficiency. It reduces the risk of Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, dementia, and MS. It helps fight depression and enhances mood, increases energy, and improves mental performance. Coffee improves focus, concentration, cognitive function, and working memory. Research shows that coffee consumption increases attention span, the ability to reason logically, and dramatically improves reaction time.


Unfortunately, depression is prevalent in modern society and it reduces the quality of life significantly. It affects almost 7% of Americans. A Harvard Study, following 50,739 women from the Nurses' Health Study, suggested that women who drank at least four cups of coffee every day reduced their risk of depression by up to 20%. (1)

Studies have also shown that drinking coffee daily can reduce the risk of suicide by 53%, in both men and women. (2) Researchers found that caffeine not only stimulates the central nervous system but may act as a mild antidepressant by boosting production of neurotransmitters in the brain, such as serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenaline.


Your emotional state plays an important role in your focus and energy levels. Consumption of coffee raises brain chemicals that promote a sense of wellbeing, allowing you to perform in a state of emotional efficiency; feeling less stressed, depressed and anxious. The reason isn't only related to caffeine, but also the antioxidants found in coffee. (3)

Scientists have known for many years that coffee stimulates the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain. Dopamine produces the euphoric and pleasant feelings that people often associate with coffee. Many drugs release dopamine and produce euphoria, including cocaine and amphetamines. This helps explain why caffeine is the most widely consumed psychoactive substance in the world.

Increases Energy and Enhances Physical Performance

Coffee can provide increased energy and potentially improve physical and mental performance by increasing the release of catecholamines (such as adrenaline) via the sympathetic nervous system, which among other things can make your heart beat faster, sending more blood and increasing oxygen to your muscles and brain. It also signals your liver to release sugar into the bloodstream for energy.

There are so many metabolic effects of caffeine that it's hard to sort out which are responsible for the increase in physical and mental energy. Caffeine can help muscles contract by encouraging the sarcoplasmic reticulum in muscle fibers to release calcium ions and reduces the percentage of maximum exertion that a given exercise requires. Increased circulation and intracellular substrate availability, or fuel for the muscles, occurs in response to changes brought on by caffeine, and may help to explain the perception of reduced exertion during exercise. (4)

Reduces Stress

Stress is a normal response that is helpful when faced with challenges. However, it begins to affect many bodily processes when continued over an extended period of time. Too much stress has been linked to high blood pressure, heart disease, insomnia, obesity, and mental health disorders. According to the American Psychological Association, 33% of Americans never discuss ways to manage stress with a health care provider. (*)

Researchers discovered that mice given caffeine were better able to handle stress than mice subjected to stressful situations sans caffeine. The reason: While caffeine usually blocks adenosine receptors from activating sleep processes, it also prevents the receptors from reacting to, and causing a stress response, including a bad mood, memory problems, and an enhanced susceptibility to depression, the researchers found. (5)

Improves Focus, Concentration, and Cognitive Function

Anyone studying for an exam or preparing for an important presentation knows they are able to focus better after they've had a cup of coffee. This is because caffeine helps your brain function more efficiently. It also increases your attention span, your ability to reason logically, and dramatically improves your reaction time. Once you drink that morning cup of Joe, your bloodstream absorbs the caffeine and carries it to the brain where it blocks adenosine, an inhibitory neurotransmitter, which increases dopamine levels, firing neurons, and boosting your mood, focus, and concentration.

Coffee Enhances Working Memory

Think of your computer's RAM as the processing power of your brain. By increasing your working memory, you are less prone to distraction, and this allows your brain to work more efficiently.

We've known for a while that caffeine has cognitive-enhancing effects, affecting short-term memory; but studies from Johns Hopkins University now show its positive effects on strengthening memories, making them resistant to, or reducing forgetting for over 24 hours. (6)

Protects Against Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Dementia, and MS

Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia, and it generally affects those over 65 years of age. There is no cure currently; however, there are plenty of preventive steps you can take. In addition to exercising and eating healthy, drinking coffee can also be effective.

Researchers from the University of South Florida and the University of Miami tested the blood levels of caffeine in older adults with mild cognitive impairment, or the first sign of serious forgetfulness, and then reevaluated them two to four years later. Participants who had little or no caffeine circulating in their bloodstreams were far more likely to have progressed to full-blown Alzheimer's than those whose blood indicated they'd had about three cups' worth of caffeine. (7) Those who drink coffee on a daily basis have a 65% less chance of developing Alzheimer's or other dementia as they age.

The second most common degenerative disease, Parkinson's, is caused by the death of neurons that generate dopamine inside the brain. Studies published in The Journal of the American Medical Association have shown that coffee drinkers are up to 60% less likely to develop Parkinson's due to the caffeine content. (8) Drinking decaf coffee will not lower the risk of Parkinson's.

Studies also show that drinking at least four cups of coffee every day can reduce the risk of multiple sclerosis. The belief is that it prevents the inflammation that leads to the development of the disease. (9)

Choose Quality Coffee for the Greatest Health Benefits

The best quality coffee yields the greatest potential health benefits. The way coffee is grown, handled, and roasted has a direct effect on its quality. Independent tests have shown that out of 100 organic coffee brands tested, Purity coffee had the highest levels of antioxidants with no mold or mycotoxins. (10)

Brain Booster Supplements

There are three products, that when used with coffee, are healthful brain boosters: L-theanine, Percepta, and Teavigo.

L-theanine is an amino acid found almost exclusively in teas from the plant, Camellia sinensis, (containing green tea catechins and caffeine). It is used to promote brain health; most notably relaxation, without sedation, and rejuvenation. It has been shown to be effective at reducing stress.

Percepta is a unique, proprietary plant-based nootropic nutraceutical, designed to target the accumulation of "plaques and tangles" in the brain that directly contribute to memory loss. Starting in early adulthood, our brains begin a slow, deliberate decline, as they begin to accumulate "plaques and tangles." Percepta is the first dietary supplement to target the real reason we lose memory as we age--brain "plaques and tangles." Studies have shown that Percepta halted, reduced, or dissolved plaques and tangles in the brain. Percepta is backed by over 15 years of scientific studies and has over 50 issued patents. (11)

Teavigo is caffeine-free green tea extract with EGCG. EGCG is a powerful green tea catechin that has many health benefits, including improving brain function.


Many studies have shown that coffee not only protects against cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, cancers, and other diseases and conditions, but it has important benefits for the brain.

Currently, 5.7 million Americans have Alzheimer's. Depression affects 15 million Americans each year, and anxiety disorders are affecting 40 million Americans a year. Suicide rates are at a 30-year high. Patients need their healthcare providers to care for their brains and mental health, along with the rest of their body. Due to the research on the benefits of coffee, healthcare providers can help their patients by recommending quality coffee for their brain and mental health.

(*) To receive a copy of Dr. Helschiens's monograph, "When Stress Becomes Distress," please email:


(1.) Drinking coffee may decrease depression risk in women. Harvard School of Public Health. Available at: Accessed June 11, 2018.

(2.) Drinking coffee may reduce risk of suicide in adults. Harvard School of Public Health. Available at: Accessed June 11, 2018.

(3.) Harvard Medical School. What is it about coffee. Harvard Health Publishing. Available at: Accessed June 12, 2018.

(4.) Roberts S. Why does caffeine give you energy? Tufts Journal. Available at: Accessed June 12, 2018.

(5.) Kaster M, Machado N, Silva H. Caffeine acts through neuronal adenosine A2A receptors to prevent mood and memory dysfunction triggered by chronic stress. PNAS USA. June 23, 2015:112(25):7833-8.

(6.) Gatlin L. Caffeine has a positive effect on memory, Johns Hopkins researchers say. Johns Hopkins University. Available at: Accessed June 18, 2018.

(7.) Cao C, et al. High Blood caffeine levels in MCI linked to lack of progression to dementia. J Alzheimer's Dis. 2012;30(3):559-72.

(8.) Ross GW, et al. Association of coffee and caffeine intake with the risk of Parkinson disease. JAMA. 2000:283(20):2674-79.

(9.) Wijnands J, Kingwell E. Time to wake up and smell the coffee? Coffee consumption and multiple sclerosis. JNNP (Online). Available at: Accessed June 22, 2018.

(10.) Independent Laboratory Tests. Purity Coffee. Available at: Accessed June 29, 2018.

(11.) Available at: Accessed June 22, 2018.

by Steven M. Helschien, DC

Dr. Steven Helschien (a.k.a. Dr. Coffee) is a coffee aficionado and believes that coffee is a powerhouse superfood. He is the founder of Level 1 Diagnostics (a cardiovascular testing program that uses advanced, noninvasive technology to detect and prevent cardiovascular disease), and Level 1 Therapeutics (a health and wellness program dedicated to supporting optimal health). Dr. Helschien is passionate about progressive health issues and encouraging people toward greater health and wellbeing.
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Author:Helschien, Steven M.
Publication:Townsend Letter
Date:Oct 1, 2018
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