Age Modulates the Association of Caffeine Intake With Cognition and With Gray Matter in Elderly Diabetics

J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2019 Apr 23;74(5):683-688. doi: 10.1093/gerona/gly090.


Background: The association between caffeine and cognitive performance has not been tested in older individuals with type 2 diabetes (T2D). Its association with brain volume in T2D has been tested only in animals.

Methods: We examined the association of caffeine with cognitive function and brain volume in a sample of elderly diabetics participating in the Israel Diabetes and Cognitive Decline Study (n = 638) and the moderating effect of age on this association. In a subsample (n = 185) with magnetic resonance imaging, we also examined these associations with gray and white matter volumes (GM/WM).

Results: Using linear regression adjusting for cognition-related covariates, we found that higher caffeine intake was associated with better function in overall cognition (p = .018), attention/working memory (p = .002), executive functioning (p = .047), and semantic categorization (p = .026). Interaction analyses of caffeine intake with age were significant for semantic categorization (p = .025), and approached significance for overall cognition (p = .066). This association was driven by the older group (above-median) for whom the association of caffeine intake with semantic categorization (p = .001), attention/working memory (p = .007), executive functioning (p = .005), and overall cognition (p = .002) were significant. In the magnetic resonance imaging subsample, there was an interaction (p = .034) of caffeine intake with age for GM volume; in the older group, higher caffeine intake was associated with greater GM volume (β = .198, p = .033).

Conclusions: Caffeine intake may have a beneficial role in cognitive functioning of elderly adults with T2D, which may be moderated by age. Greater GM volume may be a mechanism underlying the association of higher caffeine intake with better cognitive function.

Keywords: Alzheimer’s; Cognitive aging; Neuroimaging; Type 2 diabetes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Caffeine / administration & dosage*
  • Cognition / drug effects*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / complications*
  • Female
  • Gray Matter / anatomy & histology*
  • Humans
  • Israel
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Organ Size
  • White Matter / anatomy & histology*


  • Caffeine