Caffeine 'may help reduce errors'

People who work or drive through the night can lower their chances of making potentially disastrous errors by drinking coffee, new research suggests.

Caffeine can improve alertness and reduce mistakes among workers or drivers whose late shifts are likely upset their body clock and cause them to experience a form of 'jet lag', according to the study.

Researchers, who analysed data from 13 trials looking at the effects of caffeine on performance, found it was more effective in reducing the number of errors than naps or placebos.

Participants aged between 20 and 30 were given caffeine in the form of coffee, "pep" pills, energy drinks or caffeinated foods, before being assessed in a series of simulated driving and neurological tests.

Results published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews showed that volunteers who were administered caffeine showed improved performance in a range of tests measuring memory, attention, perception, conceptualising and reasoning.

Lead researcher Dr Katherine Ker, from the London School of Tropical Medicine, said: "It seems reasonable to assume that reduced errors are associated with fewer injuries, although we cannot quantify such as reduction."

Because the effects of body clock disruption vary with age, more research is needed to see if caffeine improves the alertness of older workers, said the scientists.

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