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Caffeine 'helps reduce mistakes at work'

It's a perfect excuse to pester your boss for a complimentary cup of coffee in office everyday -- a caffeine shot helps reduce mistakes made by drowsy shift workers and improve their performance, according to a study.

world Updated: May 12, 2010 14:12 IST

It's a perfect excuse to pester your boss for a complimentary cup of coffee in office everyday -- a caffeine shot helps reduce mistakes made by drowsy shift workers and improve their performance, according to a study.

Researchers at London School of Tropical Medicine have in fact based their findings on an analysis of data from some 13 trials investigating the effects of caffeine on performance of shift workers.

Caffeine was administered in coffee, "pep" pills, energy drinks, or caffeinated foods, mostly in simulated working conditions. In some trials performance was assessed by carrying out tasks such as driving. Others subjected the volunteers to neuropsychological tests.

Caffeine appeared to reduce errors more than 'dummy' placebo treatments or naps, the study revealed. It improved performance in various tests, including those of memory, attention, perception, conceptualising and reasoning.

"It seems reasonable to assume that reduced errors are associated with fewer injuries, although we cannot quantify such as reduction," lead researcher Katherine Ker was quoted by the British media as saying.

The average age of people taking part in the trials was between 20 and 30.

Because the effects of body clock disruption vary with age, more research is needed to see if caffeine improved the alertness of older workers, say the researchers.

The study has been published in the 'Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews' journal.