March is caffeine awareness month. Coffee is one of the commonest forms in which caffeine is consumed daily. In the UK alone, it is estimated that nearly 100 million cups of coffee are consumed per day. Despite coffee’s popularity, there remains much conflicting scientific evidence regarding the benefits and potential downsides of drinking coffee, and the impact of caffeine on brain health.

Coffee has been indicated to modulate dopamine-mediated responses related to cognition and movement, which may have some preventative and ameliorative effects in Parkinson’s disease.  In Alzheimer’s, coffee has been suggested to decrease the accumulation of beta-amyloid, a key marker of Alzheimer’s, when >2 cups per day were consumed. However, positive results with respect to coffee and Alzheimer’s risk reduction specifically have not been observed consistently across studies, and therefore further research is merited. Additionally, caffeine consumption may disrupt sleep, depending on the time of day that it is consumed. This could theoretically increase risk of Alzheimer’s disease development long term as sleep is essential for the functioning of the glymphatic system, which is involved in beta amyloid clearance

In conclusion, individuals should moderate their consumption of coffee, and caffeine. If sensitive to the effects of caffeine, trying to become pregnant, or pregnant, individuals should consider caffeine free alternatives to coffee. A further caveat specifically for pregnancy is that some caffeine free herbal teas should only be consumed in small amounts, and some must be avoided completely, in pregnancy, and the advice of a midwife or physician should be sought if needed.