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One Major Side Effect of Drinking Too Much Coffee, New Study Says

Hint: It's not the jitters. Researchers have found how much coffee you drink is related to your dementia risk.

Lately, it seems like study after study has confirmed the health benefits of coffee. (One of the latest? Coffee is even good for your immunity.) However, a group of public health and psychiatry researchers in Australia have just discovered something important when it comes to coffee's effects on the brain—including dementia. Their findings also highlighted something important for non-coffee drinkers.

Keep reading…and check out One Major Side Effect of Drinking Your Coffee Before Breakfast, Expert Says.

They set out to find the effects of coffee on the brain and nervous system.

two people drinking coffee
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A study has recently been published in the journal Nutritional Neuroscience, wherein researchers analyzed the levels of habitual coffee consumption among 400,000 participants between the ages of 37 and 73 years from the U.K. Biobank. Of those, the research team had access to magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) results for 17,700 to measure brain volume.

They found coffee affects learning and memory.

Senior woman using a digital tablet and having coffee on the sofa at home.
iStock

The research team discovered inverse relationships between coffee consumption and brain volume—that is, the more coffee an individual drank, the more likely they were to have a relatively lower total brain volume.

This included a smaller hippocampus (a major section of the brain that's involved with learning and memory), gray matter (which plays a role in moving, memory, and emotions, as defined in a 2020 article that also explains gray matter "plays a significant role in all aspects of human life") and white matter, which is involved in thinking, motor function, and balance. As WebMD suggests, the aging process advances when white matter is compromised.

RELATED: One Side Effect Alcohol Has on Brain Health, New Study Says

The chance of dementia was higher.

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The researchers in the current study also found evidence that in addition to lower brain volume, the chance of dementia was higher for individuals who drank decaf or didn't drink coffee at all, as well as for those who drank a lot of coffee. Specifically, they noted that consuming six cups a day was associated with 53% higher odds of dementia, compared to consuming one to two cups per day.

To state the link between coffee and brain health:

coffee
Shutterstock

To put their findings simply, the researchers concluded: "High coffee consumption was associated with smaller total brain volumes and increased odds of dementia."

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Krissy Gasbarre
Krissy is a senior news editor at <em>Eat This, Not That!</em>, managing morning and weekend news related to nutrition, wellness, restaurants and groceries (with a focus on beverages), and more. Read more