Consuming Six Cups of Coffee Daily? A Large Study Suggests That Your Brain May Pay the Price Later
While many of us enjoy a cup or two of coffee throughout the day, a recent study reveals that excessive use may diminish brain volume and raise the risk of dementia over time.
This was also a large study, with 17,702 adults aged 37 to 73 who were recruited through the UK Biobank initiative. The long-running initiative collects data on a variety of health and lifestyle parameters, such as coffee use, brain volume, and disease – as well as extra data such as socioeconomic status that scientists may factor in.
Excess coffee hazards can skyrocket, yet you do need to consume a significant amount of the beverage: The study discovered that persons who drank six or more cups of coffee per day had a 53% greater risk of developing dementia than those who drank one or two cups or less.
“Coffee is among the most popular drinks in the world,” epidemiologist Kitty Pham of the University of South Australia notes. “Yet with global consumption being more than nine billion kilograms a year, it’s critical that we understand any potential health implications.”
“This is the most extensive investigation into the connections between coffee, brain volume measurements, the risks of dementia, and the risks of stroke – it’s also the largest study to consider volumetric brain imaging data and a wide range of confounding factors.”
While we are aware that coffee has a range of beneficial effects on the brain – including its ability to keep us alert – past research has been equivocal and, in some cases, inconsistent regarding any association between brain volume and dementia.
After adjusting for characteristics such as gender, age, BMI, and pre-existing illnesses, the researchers discovered a link between increasing coffee consumption and decreased total brain capacity in participants, as well as an increased risk of dementia.
This study makes no attempt to determine the consequences of brain shrinkage. While gray and white matter both contribute to the control of motor and sensory function, it is difficult to connect having less of either to specific outcomes in behavior or brain activity. Brain shrinkage is also a natural part of aging, and some research imply a link between volume and dementia.
“Accounting for all possible permutations, we consistently found that higher coffee consumption was significantly associated with reduced brain volume – essentially, drinking more than six cups of coffee a day may be putting you at risk of brain diseases such as dementia and stroke,” Pham explains.
What is unknown is why this occurs: much more research needs to be conducted on how caffeine and coffee interact with brain cells, and whether those interactions are beneficial or detrimental.
It is likely that the way caffeine binds to adenosine receptors in the brain contributes to these changes, but they could also be induced indirectly by coffee’s effect on other regions of the body (such as the cardiovascular system).
What we can conclude from this research is that drinking a lot of coffee appears to be associated with a significantly increased risk of dementia in a large sample group – a link strong enough to cause you to reassess your daily routine.
“Typical daily coffee consumption is somewhere between one and two standard cups of coffee,” according to epidemiologist Elina Hyppönen of the University of South Australia. “Of course, while unit measures can vary, a couple of cups of coffee a day is generally fine.”
“However, if you’re finding that your coffee consumption is heading up toward more than six cups a day, it’s about time you rethink your next drink.”
Nutritional Neuroscience published the study.