The Cup of Joe Gets Its Due

The news is all good these days for caffeine in its pure, uncut form.

Undergrads at Centre College in Danville, Ken., recently presented findings from a research project comparing the effects on brain activity of the nation's leading energy drink with a regular cup of coffee to the annual meeting of the Association for Psychological Science. Their conclusion: both 5-Hour Energy and a cup of water with caffeine stimulate P300 brainwave activity. But the little shot didn't stimulate test subjects any more than the humble cup of joe.

The study was conceived by KatieAnn Skogsberg, an assistant professor of psychology and behavioral neuroscience at the school, in part to familiarize her students with the use of an electroencephalograph (EEG). Study subjects drank either water, water with caffeine or water with 5-Hour Energy and then completed an attention task while researchers monitored their P300 brainwaves with the EEG. The results indicated that the alertness and attentiveness of the raw-caffeine drinkers was superior to those who drank water and just as high as those who drank the energy drink.

The study bolsters research at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign that suggests caffeine can help stave off dementia. And an epidemiological study last year at the National Cancer Institute involving 400,000 subjects over a 13-year period found that the mortality rate for those who drank two or three cups of coffee a day was 10 percent lower for men and 13 percent for women compared to those who didn't enjoy a daily cup.

Some of the heaviest coffee drinkers I've known were Icelanders, and they're always at or near the top of human longevity charts. So whether you choose a bottle of 5-Hour Energy, a venti-size Starbucks or a cup of Maxwell House, keep sipping away. You can fret about the health consequences, but you'll probably have more years to worry, too.