Too much coffee a bitter brew for brain health

While a quick coffee first thing in the morning may pick us up, new research from the University of South Australia (UniSA) reveals that too much could be putting our brain health at risk.

Said to be the largest study of its kind, the researchers found that high coffee consumption is associated with smaller total brain volumes and an increased risk of dementia.

Conducted at UniSA’s Australian Centre for Precision Health at the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) together with a team of international researchers, the study assessed the effects of coffee on the brain among 17,702 UK Biobank participants (aged 37-73), finding that those who drank more than six cups of coffee a day had a 53% increased risk of dementia.

“Coffee is among the most popular drinks in the world. Yet with global consumption being more than nine billion kilograms a year, it’s critical that we understand any potential health implications,” says lead researcher and UniSA PhD candidate, Kitty Pham, adding that the research delivers important insights for public health.

“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.

“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,” she says.

Senior investigator and Director of UniSA’s Australian Centre for Precision Health, Professor Elina Hyppönen, says while the news may be a bitter brew for coffee lovers, it’s all about finding a balance between what you drink and what’s good for your health.

“This research provides vital insights about heavy coffee consumption and brain health, but as with many things in life, moderation is the key,” says Professor Hyppönen.

Professor Hyppönen adds that while this “data strongly suggests that high coffee consumption can adversely affect brain health … one simple thing we can do is to keep hydrated and remember to drink a bit of water alongside that cup of coffee”.

“Typical daily coffee consumption is somewhere between one and two standard cups of coffee. 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,” advises Professor Hyppönen.

For more information and read the research, visit: tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/1028415X.2021.1945858?journalCode=ynns20

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