New research: Coffee improves memory, alcohol not so much

Caffeine improves memory…

Caffeine seems to be able to help improve memory.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins University say that 200 milligrams of caffeine administered after test subjects studied a series of images, seemed to reduce forgetting, at least temporarily.

The subjects’ memories were tested 24 hours after they initially studied the images and then received the caffeine tablets (or a placebo).

Coffee via Shutterstock

Coffee via Shutterstock

The “average” 8 oz. cup of coffee has anywhere from about 80 mg to 170 mg of caffeine; tea has about 30-80 mg of caffeine per 8 oz cup depending on the blend.

It had previously been thought that caffeine may have had only a limited role in improving memory, or perhaps no role at all.

…While alcohol disrupts memory

It’s been known for decades that alcohol may nave a negative effect on memory. Chronic alcoholics, for example, often have problems with recalling information.

It appears now that binge drinking (periods of abstinence or near abstinence, followed by periods of heavy alcohol consumption) may be even more harmful to memory than drinking on a daily basis.

This had previously been shown to be true in teenagers, but more recent research shows that it is equally true in adults.

Alcohol itself can cause damage or death to neurons. Coupled with a decrease in thiamine (vitamin B1) intake, that may be seen in chronic alcoholics (and some others), Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome (WKS or “wet brain”) may develop.

WKS can cause decreased ability to focus, memory loss, balance problems and other symptoms — and even lead to death.

If you’re going to drink alcohol, remember to drink responsibly. The concern isn’t simply that you might drink and drive.  When abused, alcohol can physically harm your body.

(I’m told that in order to better see my Facebook posts in your feed, you need to “follow” me.)

Mark Thoma, MD, is a physician who did his residency in internal medicine. Mark has a long history of social activism, and was an early technogeek, and science junkie, after evolving through his nerd phase. Favorite quote: “The most exciting phrase to hear in science... is not 'Eureka!' (I found it!) but 'That's funny.'” - Isaac Asimov

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12 Responses to “New research: Coffee improves memory, alcohol not so much”

  1. Warren G Richards says:

    Ahahaha! That was punny.

  2. No surprise there: a little ethanol helps cleanse the body, and the blood-brain barrier keeps it from damaging neurons. Too much ethanol, and it passes through the barrier. In this day and age, such damage may lead to dementia and Alzheimer’s. for we are living longer, even past heart disease and cancer.
    Now it’s time for my daily purge: a pot of coffee mixed with a teabag each of green and black tea: all the stimulants and antioxidants for colon cleansing! I throw my vitamins in it for good measure. As for ethanol, I drink only red wine (or eat only red grapes) for the resveratrol.

  3. Ninong says:

    Let’s see, according to various medical advice articles I have read over the past couple of years, I’m supposed to drink a glass of red wine daily, drink coffee daily and eat chocolate daily. Those are the three things I chose to remember. I think they said something about exercise, but the red wine made me forget all about that. LOL

    Oh, I almost forgot, an ounce of nuts daily, too. Preferably almonds. Probably unsalted.

  4. cole3244 says:

    maybe that’s why while people have so many auto accidents when drinking they forget how to drive.

  5. Mike_in_the_Tundra says:

    Well yes, but you would need to be right up at the net.

  6. Warren G Richards says:

    If you spike your coffee, though, you’re okay. *Snort!

  7. bkmn says:

    Chances are very good that if aspirin had to clear the FDA today it probably would not win approval.

  8. Mike_in_the_Tundra says:

    My doctor feels that no one should use acetaminophen.

  9. Mike_in_the_Tundra says:

    Another plus is you’ll stay awake for your good times.

  10. Drew2u says:

    “Hey, I heard you brew some nice COffee…”

  11. bkmn says:

    Also, avoid drinking alcohol on an empty stomach. And very importantly, don’t take Tylenol/acetaminophen if you drink or after drinking – and check all over the counter medications for acetaminophen – alcohol and acetaminophen together can damage your liver.

    Now…can someone pass the wine?

  12. heimaey says:

    Coffee and pot together means you won’t forget your good times!

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