Coffee and tea are the most popular drinks in the world today. Both contain caffeine, a psychoactive drug that has positive and negative health effects on your brain depending on how much you drink. Statistics show that 85 percent of Americans consume caffeine daily but a lesser percentage fully understands what caffeine really does to their brains. With that said, this article digs deep into the potential effects of caffeine on our brains and overall health. First, let’s take a look at the active ingredients in coffee.
- Caffeine. It’s the main ingredient in coffee which stimulates the nervous system.
- Chlorogenic acids (CGA). These are antioxidants which are said to provide benefits to people with high blood pressure and blood sugar problems.
- Trigonelline. This is a highly unstable alkaloid compound when exposed to strong heat and it forms niacin (vitamin B3) during roasting. It inhibits bacterial growth in the mouth, hence preventing dental cavities.
- Cafestol and kahweol. Usually found in unfiltered coffee and coffee’s natural oil, these compounds are good for the liver and can protect against cancer.
Caffeine on Alertness
Research shows a link between coffee consumption and increased alertness, attention and moods. Many people consider caffeine satisfying and give them a sense of satisfaction. A report by the European Food Safety Authority shows that taking 160-600mg of coffee improved memory and reasoning when taken by people who feel fatigued and sleepy. However, caffeine is a stimulant, and taking lots of it registers anxiety. Caffeine suppresses adenosine, which scientists believe helps us to sleep at night. Drinking caffeine pushes this compound out of the way, keeping you awake for longer.
Caffeine and Memory
Research on the effects of caffeine on memory found out that a group of people experienced improved long-term memory. The subjects who consumed caffeine tablets after studying a series of images had the ability to recognize the images 24 hours later compared to the subjects who didn’t take caffeine. However, these studies are not conclusive enough and researchers are divided as to whether caffeine has significant effects on memory.
Caffeine and Brain Performance
Research published in The Journal of Nutrition in 2014 shows a correlation between caffeine intake and improved speed, vigilance, and arousal of the brain. According to the study, caffeine is a methylxanthine which blocks the brain’s adenosine receptors, thus triggering cholinergic stimulation. As a result, it improves cognition and slows down age-related cognitive performance. In addition to adenosine receptors, caffeine contains polyphenol antioxidants and other compounds that act on a variety of pathways in our brains associated with protecting the proper functioning of the brains. Other studies show that caffeine intake improves learning by up to 10 percent.
Caffeine and Depression
Apart from blocking adenosine, caffeine also increases the flow of serotonin, which influences your moods positively. This boost of serotonin gives you a positive feeling, strong enough to inhibit depression. In other words, a cup of coffee makes you happier.
Specialists link coffee to reducing the risk of suicide on men.
Caffeine and Migraines
Caffeine constricts blood vessels in your brain which are dilated. This relieves headaches and migraines making caffeine good for your brains.
Caffeine Boosts Moods
Caffeine acts as a brain stimulant which blocks adenosine. This allows neurotransmitters glutamine and dopamine (natural stimulants produced by your brain) to take charge, making you feel more energized, hence boosting your moods. The problem with this effect is that more people would love to feel it for longer, and this could lead to drinking more and more coffee, which leads to a drinking-coffee habit.
Coffee on Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Diseases
Alzheimer’s disease causes loss of memory and affects our thinking. It’s the world’s leading cause of dementia and currently, there are no known cures. Several observational studies indicate regular consumption of coffee in moderation can reduce the risks of Alzheimer’s by up to 65 percent. Although the research has not been confirmed, taking into consideration what caffeine does to your brain can be associated with improved brain functioning, at least in the short term. In other studies, drinking up to three cups of coffee indicated a lower risk of Parkinson’s disease in over 20,000 subjects. Caffeine was the main ingredient responsible for protecting the central nervous system.
The role that caffeine plays on our brains is still subject to further investigations. Coffee has neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties. Some of the short-term effects include improved learning, alertness, and moods. However, let’s not forget that coffee is a drug, which if consumed excessively could cause anxiety, sleep issues, dehydration, jitters, and heart palpitations. Overall, coffee is good for your brain and general health, if taken in moderation.