Does Coffee Improve Brain Performance?

Unless you are more of a fan of hot chocolate or tea, you will have to agree that a morning ritual isn’t complete without a hot cup of joe. According to the National Coffee Association, 7 in 10 Americans drink coffee every week at an average rate of three cups per day. 

It’s no question that the United States has a coffee culture that is as vibrant as anywhere else. Whether we engage in hearty conversations with friends or working after hours, a cup of coffee is always there to keep our minds awake and active.

But how about for the long run? What can coffee provide in terms of improving neurological functions?

Coffee, Cream and Intelligence 

Back in the day, the habit of drinking coffee has been closely associated with intellectuals and artists. The French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre was a frequent patron of Parisian cafes while Voltaire was said to drink 50 cups of coffee a day!

Sure not many smart people are fans of drinking coffee, but the habit has somehow been linked with high intelligence. 

Not much research has been done to support this connection. In fact, in a Psychology Today article by Ohio State University professor Gary L. Wenk, Ph.D., coffee does not raise IQ levels. The caffeine in coffee only increases the brain’s processing speed but it doesn’t lead to significant long-term changes in cognitive performance. 

According to Wenk, the human brain is  already capable of processing large amounts of information, and drinking caffeine doesn’t make much difference, except that it gives a temporal boost. After all, it remains a mild stimulant and it doesn’t make for an effective replacement for the nutrients your brain actually needs, such as Vitamin B6, potassium, riboflavin, and iron.

Psychological effects of coffee

While there is not enough evidence that suggests a correlation between intelligence gain and coffee drinking,  we can at least consider a few important psychological benefits.

For one, researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that caffeine can reduce the risk of depression among women who drink at least four cups of coffee a day. In a latter study by the same research team, drinking two to three cups of coffee per day reduces the risk of suicide among men by 50%. 

There has also been strong evidence that correlates coffee drinking with a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. A 2009 study, in fact, finds a significant decrease in the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia among seniors who started drinking coffee during midlife. 


Scientific literature seem to skew favorably toward the long-term psychological effects of drinking coffee. It’s still worth noting that present findings are still subject to further analysis. 

The idea that coffee makes us smarter remains contested, but there is solace in understanding the beverage’s long-term benefits.

Still, too much of a good thing can still be harmful and drinking coffee can develop into a destructive addiction towards caffeine. 

If that happens to a loved one, you can reach out to MidCities Psychiatry for help. Give us a call today.

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