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Need a Memory Boost? Try Caffeine!

If you ever thought you could use help remembering names, important dates, and things you have seen, you will be happy to learn that a recent study from Johns Hopkins University has proven for the first time that caffeine boosts and maintains long-term memory.

Caffeine’s benefits are varied and widely understood, including enhancing mood, increasing endurance, and conferring a wide range of health improvements. It has also long been recognized that a little caffeine ramps up concentration, attention, vigilance, and the ability to perform calculations and think logically. In addition, it has been known for some time that caffeine improves short-term memory, for example, remembering a telephone number you have just looked at before dialing it. However, until this study was completed, no one knew if caffeine’s benefits to mental processes extended to boosting long-term memory.

Proving the Memory-Boosting Benefits of Caffeine

For the study, researchers picked over 150 volunteers who did not usually consume much caffeine. The volunteers were asked to study pictures of flowers, musical instruments, and other objects. After the participants viewed the pictures, the scientists gave half of them a pill containing either 100mg, 200mg, or 300mg of caffeine–the amount found in a 4oz, an 8oz, or a 12oz cup of filter-drip coffee—and gave the other half an identical looking placebo. Neither the subjects nor the researchers knew until the study ended who had taken caffeine and who had taken the placebo.

The next day, researchers showed the volunteers more pictures. The subjects who had been given the 200mg caffeine pills performed significantly better than those who had been given a placebo at identifying pictures similar, the same, or different from the ones they had seen the previous day. The researchers discovered that less than 200mg of caffeine offered little or no benefit, and 300mg did not improve memory performance any more than the 200mg had done. As a result, researchers concluded that 200mg of caffeine offered the greatest benefit for boosting long-term memory. (“Post-study caffeine administration enhances memory consolidation in humans,” Nature Neuroscience, Daniel Borota, et al., January 12, 2014.)

How to Get Your Caffeine Memory Boost

This study shows that modest amounts of caffeine work best to boost memory. The amount in an 8oz cup of filter-drip coffee, about 200mg, is excellent for sustaining your memories. But remember there are many sources of caffeine. All of them, including soda, chocolate, tea, and coffee yogurt or coffee ice cream can confer caffeine’s memory-enhancing benefits. And all are safe to consume in moderation.

Below is a look at the approximate amount of caffeine in some commonly consumed products:

  • Arabica filter-drip coffee (8oz): 200mg
  • Robusta filter-drip coffee (8oz): 400mg
  • Dark chocolate bar (1.45oz): 31mg
  • Soda (12oz): 40mg
  • Diet soda (12oz): 45mg
  • Energy drink (12oz): 115mg (on average)
  • Green tea (6oz): 10mg – 15mg
  • Black tea (6oz): 50mg
  • Coffee ice cream (8oz): 60mg
  • Coffee yogurt (8oz): 45mg

(Note: Arabica coffee beans are better quality beans and have half the caffeine of harsher tasting Robusta coffee beans. You might want to know that but Duncan Donuts and MacDonald’s use Arabica beans, while most coffee shops use Robusta beans.)

So, the next time you want to boost your memory, don’t forget caffeine!

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Bennett Alan Weinberg, Esq., co-author with Bonnie K. Bealer of the two leading books on caffeine, The World of Caffeine and The Caffeine Advantage, presents the latest scientific and cultural information about caffeine through his web site He works as a consultant for pharmaceutical and food and beverage companies, including GlaxoSmithKline and The Coca-Cola Company. His work has promoted an accurate understanding of caffeine and has taught people about the many ways caffeine can be used to improve their lives.

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