A new study revealed a disturbing side-effect of frequent coffee drinking — namely, a reduction in gray matter volume in a specific part of the brain.
The MRI results of the study, published in the Cerebral Cortex journal in February 2021, seem to contradict the cognitive boost feel that we often experience when drinking coffee.
Yet, how is this possible?
For the time being, scientists are also perplexed.
Nevertheless, during the study, it was revealed that just 10 days of caffeine intake — 150mg three times per day (450mg in total) — was enough to cause a significant reduction in gray matter (nerve cell bodies) volume of the medial temporal lobe (MTL) of the surveyed.
In fact, the MTL is responsible for our episodic and spatial memory. For instance, this part of our brain plays a crucial role in memory retrieval (recall). Hence, MTL acts much like RAM in your PC — in other words, it’s a temporary memory storage for remembering facts, data, and events before they become engraved in the neocortex.
To illustrate, damage to this region would look very similar to Alzheimer’s patients. To be more precise, it would manifest as spatial and cognitive disorientation.
On the contrary! The results of this study don’t show any permanent brain damage, and the reduction in gray matter volume is not necessarily negative. It merely takes a few days of coffee abstinence for gray matter to return to its previous size.
Also, multiple studies thus far have proved the neuroprotective effect of coffee on our brain, particularly for the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease.
Therefore, we might not have to give up our 95mg of caffeine (found in the average cup).
This somewhat surprising effect requires further investigation. The next step is to determine whether there are some noticeable long-term differences between the brains of coffee drinkers and their non-drinking counterparts.