Beverages and Brain Health

When using nutrition to decrease your risk factors for developing dementia, many people overlook the importance of beverages. Coffee, tea, and red wine all have preventive qualities when it comes to memory loss.

Tea and coffee both help memory and brain health due to their natural ingredients. Red wine, consumed in moderation, has been shown to benefit both heart and brain health. Adding these readily available drinks to your daily routine could prevent you or a loved one from developing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, delay the onset of the disease, or in many cases slow its progression in those who are already experiencing symptoms.

Coffee:

Many individuals start their morning with a cup of coffee, or they have coffee at some point during the day. Research regarding the negative impacts of coffee has been circulating for years, but a significant amount of research is now being done regarding the connection between coffee consumption, improved memory, and lowering the risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and general cognitive decline.

Drinking three to five, six ounce cups of coffee per day can lead to improved memory retention and can significantly reduce your chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, for some individuals with Alzheimer’s disease, coffee consumption can temporarily arrest the progression of the disease for a time, although the disease’s progress cannot be halted indefinitely.

If drinking caffeinated coffee, it is important to remember that the caffeine content can become detrimental to your health if too much is consumed. Six or more cups of coffee per day can begin to cause insomnia, restlessness, and gastrointestinal difficulties.

The reason why coffee can be beneficial is not entirely known, but many researchers have found that it is not due to the caffeine content alone. Caffeine does help people remember facts more effectively, but it is an ingredient in the coffee itself—both caffeinated and non-caffeinated—that ultimately proves beneficial to memory and brain structure.

Tea:

Both black and green tea help delay the onset or slow progression of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Black tea is thought to have this impact due to both the caffeine in the drink as well as the antioxidants in the tea leaves themselves.

Similarly, drinking black tea improves memory, information processing, and learning. Generally, drinking one cup of black tea per day can produce these positive changes. Green tea prevents some processes that could lead to the development of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

In fact, drinking green tea daily results in a 54% reduction in the risk of cognitive decline. The components of green tea reduce plaques that form in the brain; these plaques are thought to contribute to the cognitive decline associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

These plaques form and stick to parts of the brain associated with learning and memory. Eventually, they cause damage to that part of the brain. Researchers have found that green tea actually stops these plaques from forming by preventing them from sticking to healthy neurons in the brain.

Additionally, the ingredients of the tea also lead to increased brain cell production and repairing of damaged neurons. These new and repaired cells lead to noticeable improvements in memory and learning within a short period of time.

If you or your loved one are at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, or already have the disease, drinking one cup of green tea per day could be very beneficial. It is a small change, but it can lead to large improvements.

Researchers also found that introducing more green tea did not have negative effects on the brain but rather showed a higher rate of improvement. Therefore, if you or a loved one want to drink two to three cups of green tea per day, it could be even more advantageous to brain health.

However, more than five cups per day can cause negative side effects due to the caffeine content. In addition to increasing memory, learning, and mental alertness, green tea consumption helps lower cholesterol levels.

Drinking one cup of green tea per day for six months results in a decrease in total cholesterol as well as a marked decrease in “bad” cholesterol. As discussed in the decrease saturated fats and cholesterol section, high levels of cholesterol increase a person’s risk for developing dementia.

Therefore, a small change to you or your loved one’s daily routine, such as drinking a cup of green tea, could have numerous beneficial effects.

Red wine:

Similar to how green tea can lead to a decrease in plaque formation in the brain, an ingredient in red wine—an antioxidant called resveratrol—has almost the same effect. Drinking one glass of red wine per day could lead to a decrease in your risk for Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

This is attributed to both the wine’s ability to impact the formation of plaques as well as red wine’s link to a decrease in cholesterol. This particular nutritional change should not be considered if you or your loved one have a history of alcohol abuse, liver problems, or are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Additionally, while one glass of red wine a day can be beneficial, excessive alcohol consumption— four to five glasses a day or more—can actually lead to an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

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