[FONT=Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif]People who drink too much coffee could start seeing ghosts or hearing strange voices, UK research has suggested.
People who drank more than seven cups of instant coffee a day were three times more likely to hallucinate than those who took just one, a study found.
A Durham University team questioned 200 students about their caffeine intake, the journal Personality and Individual Differences reported.
However, academics say the findings do not prove a "causal link".
They also stress that experiencing hallucinations is not a definite sign of mental illness and that about 3% of people regularly hear voices.
"This is the first step toward looking at the wider factors associated with hallucinations," said psychology PhD student Simon Jones, who led the study.
He said previous research had suggested factors such as childhood trauma could be linked to hallucinations. It made sense to examine the link between food and mood, and - in particular - caffeine and the body's response to stress, he added.
When under stress, the body releases a hormone called cortisol which is produced in greater quantities after consuming caffeine.
The extra cortisol boost could be what causes a person to hallucinate.
Besides coffee, sources such as tea, chocolate, "pep" pills and energy drinks contain caffeine.
After asking the students about their typical intake, the research team assessed their susceptibility to hallucinatory experiences and stress levels.
Among the experiences reported were seeing things that were not there, hearing voices, and sensing the presence of dead people.
The researchers now plan to investigate whether other aspects of diet, such as sugar and fat consumption, might be associated with hallucinations.
Recent research has linked high caffeine intake among pregnant women to miscarriage or low birth weight.
Other studies suggested it could help prevent skin cancer, reduce nerve damage associated with multiple sclerosis, or cause problems for diabetes sufferers.
The Durham study was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and Medical Research Council.
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