Coffee Impairs Short-Term Memory

Since the average American drinks more than 10 pounds of coffee a year, you may be concerned about a new study that claims a cup of coffee each morning may wake you up, but could hinder your short-term recall of certain words. Caffeine made it harder for people to find a word that they already knew, the "tip-of-the-tongue" phenomenon.

Caffeine improves alertness by shutting down other brain pathways, researchers say, but also makes it harder to recall things, depending on what they are.

The study divided 32 college students into two groups. One group was given 200mg of caffeine, which is equivalent to two strong cups of coffee, and the other was given a dummy drug. The students were then asked to answer 100 general knowledge questions that had simple, one-word answers.

Caffeine aided word recall when the words were similar to the answer. But when the words were unrelated to the answer, the students who had taken caffeine had more trouble recalling the answer than those who had taken the placebo.

Clearly, coffee is not the healthiest liquid to drink--the best choice is pure water--but coffee and caffeine are far less dangerous than fruit juice or soda. Although I believe eliminating, or at the very least limiting, coffee should be one of your goals, if you are in the midst of other dietary changes, such as those outlined in my nutrition plan coffee can be put toward the bottom of the list. It's far more important to wean yourself from fruit juice and soft drinks first.

Sun Network July 20, 2004

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