Caffeine Attacks The Brain

Caffeinated drinks are essential pick-me-ups for many people. However, Swiss researchers have now shown that regular caffeine consumption changes the gray matter of the human brain. She seems to shrink under the effects of caffeine.

Caffeine shrinks the gray cells

Caffeine doesn’t always seem to be beneficial for the brain, Swiss researchers found. Caffeine could cause brain damage. The world’s most commonly consumed psychoactive substance at least shrinks our little gray matter.

Caffeine is stressful

Many people can no longer imagine starting the day without coffee. Because caffeine wakes you up – but for the body in a not-so-pleasant way. Caffeine puts the organism in a state of stress. Blood pressure rises and the heartbeat accelerates. As is common with states of stress, people are now able to concentrate better for a short period of time, leading to the consumption of coffee and other caffeinated beverages en masse around the world.

Caffeine robs many people of sleep

However, caffeine is also known to disrupt sleep, especially when consumed in the evening. In turn, lack of sleep can attack the gray matter of the brain – as previous studies have shown. From this, one could now conclude that caffeine could ultimately also lead to brain damage due to its negative effects on sleep quality.

Caffeine changes the brain

A research team led by Dr. Carolin Reichert and Professor Christian Cajochen from the University of Basel investigated this connection and came to an interesting conclusion: caffeine did not lead to poor sleep in the Swiss study, but it could still affect the brain and lead to changes in the gray matter. The results were published in mid-February 2021 in the specialist journal Cerebral Cortex.

The gray matter of the brain consists in particular of the cell nuclei of the nerve cells, which are also colloquially referred to as “little gray cells”. The white matter, on the other hand, consists of the cell processes of the nerve cells, i.e. the nerve fibers.

Caffeine reduces gray matter

20 healthy young participants who normally drink coffee every day made themselves available for the Swiss study. They received caffeine capsules (one capsule with 150 mg of caffeine three times a day) for 10 days and placebo capsules for 10 more days. 150 mg of caffeine is also contained in 300 ml of coffee (300 ml is two cups of 150 ml).

You should not drink coffee during the study period. At the end of each 10-day period, the researchers examined the gray matter of the study participants using brain scans. The sleep quality was also checked (in the sleep laboratory with the help of an EEG).

Surprisingly, the sleep quality of the participants was always the same whether they had received caffeine or not. However, clear differences could be seen in the gray matter. After the 10-day caffeine-free period, gray matter volume was greater than after the caffeine period. The difference was particularly clear in the temporal lobe, where the hippocampus is located, a region of the brain that is important for what is known as memory consolidation.

Memory consolidation is a process that occurs mainly at night during deep sleep. What is newly learned and experienced during the day is transferred to the long-term memory and solidified so that it can be called up again and again.

Brain recovers quickly after caffeine abstinence

“Our results do not necessarily mean that caffeine has a negative effect on the brain,” emphasized Reichert. “However, daily caffeine consumption affects our cognitive hardware in a way that should give rise to further studies.” What is reassuring about the Swiss study is that after just 10 days of caffeine abstinence, one could see how the brain began to recover, so that the caffeine-related possible brain damage appears to be only temporary.

Caffeine reduces IQ

However, it has been known since a study from 2016 at the latest that caffeine can even affect IQ. The higher the caffeine consumption of an expectant mother, the lower the IQ of her child.

“Coffee breaks” are worth it!

Since further studies from 2019 and 2020 have also shown that caffeine also damages the joints and can increase the risk of osteoarthritis, “coffee breaks” could be worthwhile – since coffee is the most commonly consumed caffeinated beverage. So if you’re thinking about reducing your caffeine consumption, read here how you can break the habit and why green tea has clear advantages over coffee. And even if you want to stick with coffee, we have interesting tips for you on how to make coffee healthier.

Update 7/24/2021 – A lot of coffee makes the brain shrink

While the study presented above was carried out with caffeine capsules and the result does not necessarily apply to coffee, which contains other substances in addition to caffeine that could possibly compensate for the negative caffeine properties, a study was published in June 2021 which specifically the effects of coffee on the brain have been studied.

Researchers from the University of South Australia were able to show on the basis of 17,702 participants (between the ages of 37 and 73) that high coffee consumption is associated with a smaller brain and an increased risk of dementia. Participants who drank more than 6 cups of coffee daily had a 53 percent increased risk of dementia. 1 cup of coffee holds between 120 ml and 150 ml.

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