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This much coffee raises your risk of dementia

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While a quick coffee may perk us up, new research from the University of South Australia shows that too much may be dangerous for our brain health.

This study found that high coffee consumption is linked to smaller total brain volumes and an increased risk of dementia.

The study, which was carried out by UniSA’s Australian Centre for Precision Health at SAHMRI and a team of international researchers, looked at the effects of coffee on the brain in 17,702 UK Biobank participants (aged 37-73), finding that those who drank more than six cups of coffee per day had a 53% higher risk of dementia.

Kitty Pham, the study’s lead researcher and a UniSA PhD candidate, said the findings have important implications for public health.

“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,” Pham said.

“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,” Pham added.

“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 further added.

Dementia is a progressive brain disease that impairs memory, thinking, behaviour, and the ability to carry out daily tasks. Around 50 million people worldwide have been diagnosed with the syndrome. Dementia is the second leading cause of death in Australia, with approximately 250 people diagnosed each day.

Stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain is cut off, causing oxygen deprivation, brain damage, and loss of function. One in every four adults over the age of 25 will have a stroke at some point in their lives. According to statistics, 13.7 million people will have a stroke this year, with 5.5 million of them dying.

Professor Elina Hypponen, the senior investigator and director of UniSA’s Australian Centre for Precision Health, said the news may be a bitter pill for coffee drinkers to swallow, but it’s all about striking 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,” Professor Hypponen said.

“Together with other genetic evidence and a randomised controlled trial, these data strongly suggest that high coffee consumption can adversely affect brain health. While the exact mechanisms are not known, one simple thing we can do is to keep hydrated and remember to drink a bit of water alongside that cup of coffee,” Professor Hypponen added.

“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,” Professor Hypponen further said.

“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,” Professor Hypponen concluded.

The study’s findings were published in Nutritional Neuroscience.

Image Credit: Getty

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