Coffee consumption: researchers discover new effects on brain

Mon 27th Mar, 2023

Photo by ?? Janko FerlicWith a per capita consumption of 162 liters per year, coffee is the Germans' absolute favorite beverage. Coffee is not only enjoyed because of its taste. The caffeine it contains makes us feel more alert and concentrated. The caffeine stimulates the heartbeat, as well as the intestinal function and thus has noticeable effects on the body.

But coffee consumption has more than just positive effects: As researchers at the University Psychiatric Clinics (UPK) Basel and the University of Basel have now discovered, regular consumption of coffee also has an impact on brain structure. As part of a study, 20 young and healthy individuals were examined who also regularly consumed coffee in everyday life.

The test subjects were given tablets to take twice for ten days. In one of the study periods, the tablets were caffeine tablets; in the other, the tablets were without active ingredient. During the study period, the patients were also asked to refrain from any caffeine intake outside the study. At the end of each of the ten days, the volume of the subjects' gray matter was determined by brain scans. The sleep quality of the participants was also examined in a sleep laboratory by brain wave measurements.

The gray matter is part of the central nervous system and is found in both the brain and the spinal cord. It consists of countless neurons that together form a network and control many brain functions as well as all central nervous system functions. This means that this area is responsible for basic functions such as motor processes, motivation, drive and mental performance.

The study of the UPK Basel and University of Basel provides a clear result. Caffeine consumption had no effect on sleep. The situation was different for gray matter. After ten days without caffeine, the volume of gray matter turned out to be larger than after the same period of time with the caffeine tablets. The greatest change was seen in the area of the brain that is central to memory function.

Caffeine does appear to reduce the volume of gray matter, but after just ten days of caffeine withdrawal, it regenerated significantly in the subjects. "Our results do not necessarily mean that caffeine consumption has negative effects on the brain," emphasizes Dr. Carolin Reichert, co-leader of the research team at UPK Basel. However, daily caffeine consumption obviously changes cognitive performance, which should at least give rise to further studies.

The results of the study do not mean that coffee is fundamentally harmful to humans. So coffee consumption by no means has only negative effects. In fact, people who drink coffee regularly are said to have a lower risk of dying at an early age. This is what studies have found. Nevertheless, coffee should be enjoyed in moderation, especially by people with high blood pressure.

Photo by ?? Janko Ferlic


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