French researchers have found that the intake of caffeine, from three cups of coffee or tea, help older women maintain their mental sharpness. Caffeine intake had no significant affect on men.

They followed over 7,000 men and women with an average age of 74 for over four years. The participants’ intake of coffee and tea has been determined by interview and factors like education, income, depression, alcohol and tobacco use recorded as well. Then the researchers used widely accepted tests of visual skills and verbal recall to measure their mental acuity.

The study results showed that women age 65 who drank three or more cups of coffee or tea a day were about one-third less likely to have a significant decline in verbal skills than those who drank a cup or less. By age 85, the percentage rose to 70 for the women who had three or more cops of coffee or tea.

The researchers are still speculating why caffeine had such effects on women and none in men. They suggest that they may be metabolizing caffeine differently or that there could be hormonal interaction.