Are you one of those people who desperately need a cup of coffee every single morning in order to jump-start your day?
Coffee production is booming - Adults, university students, and even teenagers nowadays can't
seem to function without being constantly powered by caffeine.
Over 80% of American adults drink coffee everyday, and together, they drink almost 600 MILLION CUPS of coffee every single day.
Some drink caffeinated drinks for fun or to try the latest trend, while others are dependent on it.
The primary active ingredient in coffee is caffeine (or methyltheobromine) - a stimulant
naturally produced by plants like cocoa beans, tea leaves and most commonly, coffee beans.
It stimulates the body, affecting many normal functions, and it also has mood altering characteristics.
We have to wonder how it affects our mind and brain.
So let's take a look at the science behind the world's most popular drug.
Our nervous system has specific receptors for neurochemicals, like adenosine, dopamine, and epinephrine,
and each receptor triggers a particular chain of events, leading to different effects on our body.
Caffeine has a similar molecular structure to adenosine, which is a neurotransmitter
that blocks other, excitatory neurotransmitters and makes us feel tired.
When we drink coffee, the caffeine attaches to the receptors, which blocks out adenosine intake,
and this, in turn, increases the effect of excitatory neurotransmitters like epinephrine.
Epinephrine activates our fight or flight response, causing our body's blood pressure and heart rate to increase, and our liver to produce more glucose.
This makes us more energized, attentive, and productive.
Caffeine also slows down the reabsorption of dopamine, which makes us feel good and improves our mood.
It has also been proven to increase memory-related abilities- a study at Johns Hopkins University found that
caffeine intake could strengthen our memories and improve retention for at least 24 hours!
But those were just the short-term effects.
Where there's a caffeine high, there's bound to be a crash.
When the caffeine wears off, it makes you feel even sleepier than before.
This is because your body adapts to the large amount of caffeine by creating more adenosine receptors in your brain.
But when all the caffeine is gone, those receptors are again occupied by adenosine, thus making you more sleepy/tired than more.
Your contracted blood vessels will dilate and blood pressure to drop, which can result in headaches.
The decline of dopamine can worsen your mood, and you may end up tired, irritable, and unable to concentrate.
But too much of anything can lead to consequences-, and we have to remember that caffeine is still a drug so it can lead to addiction and withdrawal.
Over time, the positive emotions we had in the beginning will be gone, and this makes us crave coffee and paves the way toward addiction.
By drinking more coffee, the number of adenosine receptors will increase, and so will our tolerance to caffeine.
Overall, that means we will need more and more caffeine in the future to achieve the same effect,
which can worsen withdrawal symptoms and be detrimental to our health.
Too much caffeine intake in the body can also lead to caffeine intoxication.
Some symptoms of caffeine intoxication are increased urination, intestinal discomfort,
and in more serious scenarios, hallucinations.
The effects of caffeine in the body will differ from person to person, based on their biology and tolerance level and also the strength of the caffeine.
Coffee-drinkers may be pleased to hear that there are some long-term benefits.
A systematic review of 36 studies and more than 1 million participants analyzed the long-term effects of caffeine consumption.
They found that those who consumed 3-5 cups of coffee a day were at the lowest risk for cardiovascular disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and liver disease.
Furthermore, an article from the University of Colorado Boulder reported that 3 cups seemed to have the best effect in terms of protecting the brain from neurodegenerative diseases that come with age, such as dementia, Alzheimer's and Parkinsons disease.
A 10 year study conducted in Finland, Italy and the Netherlands of 676 men found that
those who drank 3 cups of coffee per day had 4.3 times LESS cognitive decline than non-consumers.
So how should you be drinking your coffee?
Based on research from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda,
the best times to drink coffee are after your peak cortisol levels drop and that is when you'll need a little boost.
The circadian rhythm is our body's internal clock, that helps dictate when certain enzymes and hormones are produced in the body.
Cortisol, a stress hormone, helps keep our body awake and reaches its peak between 8-9AM.
It peaks again between 12-1pm and 5:30pm-6:30pm,
so the suggested times to take a coffee break are 9:30am-11am and 1:30pm-5pm.
According to Nutritional Therapist Annette Moldvaer, it is best to drink coffee AFTER you have a meal.
This is because after caffeine intake, you body will release sugar into your bloodstream which triggers the release of insulin.
If you have an empty stomach, this will lead to a drop in blood sugar, and prompt you to crave more caffeine and sugar, perpetuating your dependency on coffee.
She also suggests choosing organic coffee free of pesticides, and also keeping away from too much sugar and flavourings.
What effect does coffee have on you? Are you a coffee fanatic? or you more of a tea person?