“Unhealthy” beverage improves brain function

Dr. Frank Shallenberger, MD

July 19, 2021


What if I told you there’s a common beverage that many doctors think is unhealthy that can work miracles for your health?

What if I told you this “unhealthy” beverage can prevent gallstones, colon cancer, and liver damage?

And what if I told you this same drink can slow Parkinson’s disease and improve brain function?

Well, not only is this beverage far healthier than anyone thought, but it’s also one of the most common drinks around. And it’s cheap — unless you buy it at Starbuck’s.

That’s right! The beverage is coffee.

Ask your average doc what he thinks about coffee and he’ll probably tell you all about the studies showing how it can cause heartburn, insomnia, and anxiety. Or he may tell you how it will raise your blood pressure and heart rate.

All of this is true in certain people when taken in excess, but there’s much more to the story.

I’ve already told you a few of the health problems it can help. But your doctor may be unaware of the studies showing that the risk for Alzheimer’s and type-2 diabetes is lower among regular coffee drinkers than among those who don’t drink it.

Coffee also improves endurance performance in athletes. But there’s so much more this beverage can do for you.

Helps You Cope With Stress

Too much coffee is one of the most common reasons for adrenal exhaustion. But in small enough doses, just the opposite happens. It can actually stimulate your adrenal glands.

The adrenal glands are two small glands that sit right above the kidneys. In fact, the word adrenal means “above the kidney.” The adrenal glands may be small, but they are mighty.

They are especially important in this day and age because the adrenals are primarily responsible for helping our bodies cope with stress.

And when I say stress I mean all kinds of stress. This includes the “too muches” — too much carbohydrate, too much exercise, too much alcohol, too much sun, and even too much coffee.

I’m also talking about other stresses such as pain, allergies, infections, changes in temperature, loss of sleep, battling an illness, and of course the usual collection of emotional stresses.

One of the primary ways that the adrenal glands help our bodies deal with stress is by their effect on the brain. They have the uncanny ability to both stimulate the brain to be more active and alert, while at the same time keeping it relaxed so that it can focus better.

The net result is less perceived stress. But they also have many other anti-stress effects on the rest of the body.

The adrenal glands stimulate and regulate your immune system. They protect you from infections. They also protect you from too much inflammation. But the most important function of the adrenal glands is to stimulate energy production.

Without an adequate amount of energy, cells cannot function. It makes no difference whether you’re discussing brain cells, digestion cells, or immune cells — no cell can function without enough energy. And the adrenal glands (along with the thyroid) are critical for energy production.

Coffee and Your Brain

Coffee is also an adenosine receptor inhibitor. Adenosine receptors are located on cell membranes of the cells of the brain and the nerves.

When the neurotransmitter (brain chemical) adenosine binds to these receptors, it blocks the activity of quite a few other neurotransmitters. The neurotransmitters it blocks include acetylcholine, dopamine, glutamic acid, norepinephrine, and gamma-aminobenzoic acid (GABA). All of these are vital for your brain to function at optimum levels.

Since coffee can inhibit adenosine, it prevents adenosine from blocking these neurotransmitters. So drinking a little coffee can improve your brain function.

In fact, a recent French study looked at the effects of coffee on brain function in more than 7,000 women and men. All were dementia-free at the start of the study.

The researchers evaluated their brain function with a series of tests that examined their memory and recall. They did the evaluations at the start of the study and then two and four years later.

They found that women who drank three or more cups of coffee a day were 30% less likely to have memory decline at age 65 than whose who drank one cup or less daily. And the benefit increased with age.

Women over age 80 who drank three or more cups of coffee a day were about 70% less likely to have memory decline than those who drank one cup or less.

The researchers did not find a similarly protective effect in men. But other studies have found that regular coffee drinking is good for men too.

One of these studies looked at 676 healthy men. It found that regular coffee drinkers had a lower rate of brain function decline over a 10-year follow-up than those who didn’t drink coffee.

What’s more, the more coffee these men drank (up to a maximum of three cups of coffee a day) the better their mental function was. Those who drank three cups daily had the least signs of decline, 400% less than those who did not drink coffee at all.

So the next time you go to have a cup of coffee, do so without any guilt whatsoever. Just remember to keep a lid on it — a maximum of 8-12 ounces a day.

It will not only help your adrenal gland and give you much more pep and energy, but it will also help you remember who you are and what the date is even when you are very old.


Arendash, G.W., W. Schleif, K. Rezai-Zadeh, E.K. Jackson, L.C. Zacharia, J.R. Cracchiolo, D. Shippy, and J. Tan. “Caffeine protects Alzheimer’s mice against cognitive impairment and reduces brain beta-amyloid production.” Neuroscience. 2006 November 3;142(4):941-52.

Doheny, Kathleen. Memory Slow? Drink Some Joe. HealthDay News. Posted: 2007-08-06 16:07:01.
Kaplan, G. B., et al. “Caffeine-induced behavioral stimulation is dose-dependent and associated with A1 adenosine receptor occupancy.” Neuropsyhopharmacology. 6:145-153, 1992.

Ritchie, K, I. Carrière, A. de Mendonca, F. Portet, J.F. Dartigues, O. Rouaud, P. Barberger-Gateau, and M.L. Ancelin. “The neuroprotective effects of caffeine: a prospective population study (the Three City Study).” Neurology. 2007 August 7;69(6):536-45.

van Gelder, B.M., B. Buijsse, M. Tijhuis, et al. “Coffee consumption is inversely associated with cognitive decline in elderly European men: the FINE Study.” European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, (2007) 61, 226–232.

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