Coffee ranks as one of the most popular drinks on the planet after water, alcoholic beverages, and fruit and vegetable juices. There are many reasons that people drink coffee, but most people drink the brew to improve their brain function.
In fact, research shows that moderate coffee consumption (3–5 cups per day) can enhance concentration and alertness and improve health outcomes by decreasing risk of chronic disease. In a new large-scale study, however, researchers found that drinking over six cups per day may negatively impact brain function.
The results were recently published in the journal Nutritional Neuroscience by a team of researchers at the University of South Australia. To look at the association between coffee consumption and brain health, the researchers conducted a prospective analysis of data collected by the UK Biobank, which has amassed detailed health information on over half a million participants in the UK.
The scientists analyzed the data associated with 398,646 UK Biobank participants. They compared self-reported consumption of caffeinated coffee and measures of brain volume acquired via MRI and found an inverse association between coffee consumption and total brain volume (brain volume isn't associated with intelligence, though brains tend to shrink as we age). In addition, their analysis revealed that drinking more than six cups of coffee per day is associated with a 53 percent greater probability of dementia compared to drinking 1–2 cups of coffee per day.
The results build on previous research showing that drinking large amounts of coffee is associated with worsened health outcomes such as anxiety and insomnia. Luckily, because most coffee drinkers drink about three cups of coffee per day, odds are you can continue to enjoy your morning brew without worry.