Coffee: Warding Off Dementia and Identifying Psychopaths

Warding off dementia in women may be one of more promising of research studies.

Posted Sep 28, 2016

Rita Watson 2014
Source: Rita Watson 2014

Coffee news has ranged from generating warm feelings to identifying anti-social personality traits. But now a promising research study is showing some positive associations related to women and dementia. The Gerontological Society of America (GSA) alerted members on September 27, 2016 of the study “For Women, Caffeine Could Be Ally in Warding Off Dementia.” Reported in the Journals of Gerontology the lead author, Ira Driscoll, PhD,  discussed findings derived from participants in the Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study, which is funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. 

“Data came from 6,467 community-dwelling, postmenopausal women aged 65 and older who reported some level of caffeine consumption,” according to Todd Kluss of the Gerontological Society of America.

Intake was estimated from questions about coffee, tea, and cola including frequency and serving size. The original study noted:

“The mounting evidence of caffeine consumption as a potential protective factor against cognitive impairment is exciting given that caffeine is also an easily modifiable dietary factor with very few contraindications.”

It was noted that normal daily consumption was between two and four cups per day and the authors pointed out that the nonselective adenosine receptor played a role: 

"The physiologic role for adenosine and its receptors have been widely studied in recent years and implicated in a range of neurological properties, including regulation of sleep, anxiety, memory, and cognitive performance.”  

The study authors did, however, acknowledge, the need for further research. 

Coffee, Taste, and Personality

Although unrelated to the dementia, answers from two study questionnaires may also be interpreted as being helpful to women. From the University of Innsbruck, Austria, it was reported, "Individual differences in bitter taste preferences are associated with antisocial personality."  While other studies have reported that men tend to prefer black coffee whereas women prefer sweeter coffee, the methodology from these two studies was extensive. Further, both taste preferences and personality traits were assessed.

Participants in both studies included approximately half males and half females with a mean age of 35. Of the two studies, results "confirmed the hypothesis that bitter taste preferences are positively associated with malevolent personality traits, with the most robust relation to everyday sadism and psychopathy."

While coffee may ward off dementia in older women, younger women who are inclined to date a stranger via social media, may wish to ask, "How do you like your coffee?" While a man's preference for black coffee may not be a reason to call off a date, it certainly can become a conversation starter.

The Hot Cuppa Study

Reading about coffee preferences reminded me of the “hot cuppa” study from Yale researcher Professor John A. Bargh with Lawrence Williams of the University of Colorado in 2008. As the Yale news pointed out at the time, “Our judgment of a person’s character can be influenced by something as simple as the warmth of the drink we hold in our hand.”

Dr. Bargh of the Yale ACME Lab (Automaticity in CognitionMotivation, and Evaluation) is director of the research group that “focuses on unconscious or automatic ways in which our current environmental surroundings cause us to think, feel, and behave in ways without our conscious intention or knowledge.”

NB: Watson is a former recipient of a Journalist in Aging Fellowship Award through the GSA and New America Media.


Relationships Between Caffeine Intake and Risk for Probable Dementia or Global Cognitive Impairment: The Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study, Journal of Gerontology,  A Biol Sci Med Sci first published online September 27, 2016 /

Food and Nutrition Sciences, 2013, 4, 748-757 (Appetite Volume 96, 1 January 2016, Pages 299–308)

Copyright 2016 Rita Watson