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Coffee 'may prevent memory loss'

10th July 2006

Coffee may help to prevent memory loss in old age, new research from the University of Birmingham has found.

Caffeine alters the brain's electrical activity and boosts gamma rhythms, impacting on a brain chemical called adenosine, which is found in high levels in the elderly, the scientists have claimed.

Gamma rhythms stimulate memory and learning, but this can be inhibited by the presence of adenosine.

Caffeine appears to prevent this inhibition by limiting the effect of adenosine, the study has concluded.

"Some people can't get started without a cup of coffee, others need a shot of Red Bull to keep going. Caffeine is by far the most widely used psychoactive drug," said Dr Martin Vreugdenhil, whose team made the discovery.

"Research has shown that it increases alertness, cortical activity and speeds up information processing."

He also pointed out, however, that there are also good reasons to switch to decaffeinated coffee, such as sleep problems, strain on the heart and high blood pressure, which can all be exacerbated by caffeine.