On a daily basis, over 2.25 billion cups of coffee are consumed worldwide. Coffee is one of the most popular beverages in the world and is also one of the most researched drinks. Its popularity is due to its wide range of health benefits. It is also the most consumed beverage on the planet. Many people believe that it has a positive effect on weight loss. People who drink three or more cups of coffee per day have less body fat than those who don't.
Coffee also contains caffeine, which is a stimulant that can increase metabolism, improve concentration, and reduce fatigue. Caffeine can also lower the risk of certain types of cancer, including prostate cancer. It can also help prevent Alzheimer's disease. The most important thing to remember about coffee is that too much caffeine can lead to dehydration and headaches.(1)
That figure makes coffee the single most valuable traded food commodity in the world.
This is however not surprising as a lot of people start their day with a cup of coffee. Coffee is a stimulant and it has been shown that caffeine has an effect on the brain. In fact, studies have shown that caffeine helps with memory, attention, and focus. But there is a downside to coffee. Over time, a person may become accustomed to the stimulating effects of caffeine, and so the benefits of coffee may be diminished.
Now, amid the controversy and myths about whether coffee is actually good or bad for us, evidence suggests that when consumed in moderation, coffee can offer a number of benefits to coffee drinkers. Coffee is a popular beverage, enjoyed by people of all ages and genders around the world. It has been used by humans for thousands of years as a way to boost mental performance and energy. Coffee can also be a source of antioxidants, which can help prevent diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and stroke. There are several different kinds of coffee. They include dark roast, medium roast, light roast, decaffeinated, and instant coffee. Some coffee drinkers prefer a stronger flavor than others, but for many, the taste of coffee is an important part of their social life. However, it is not uncommon for people to use caffeine as a stimulant to keep them going through the day.
BENEFITS OF COFFEE
Basically, coffee's efficiency as a high-performing brain juice might as well make it liquid gold. For instance, caffeine is a stimulant that increases alertness and enhances memory. In the past, coffee was believed to be the best way to deliver caffeine to the brain, but modern research suggests that tea and chocolate may actually be better. The reason why coffee is so good at delivering caffeine to the brain is because it contains a compound called chlorogenic acid. Chlorogenic acid is similar to caffeine, but it doesn't affect the central nervous system (the part of the brain that controls all our actions). This means that coffee, unlike some other beverages, does not cause a crash when it's consumed in excess.
While coffee drinkers just love the taste and day boosting affects, what is not so widely known are the health benefits of coffee.
Yes, coffee is good for you, but do you know how?
This article will look at how coffee helps the brain and its impact on brain functions. Let's get started.
What Is Contained in Coffee?
Coffee is not your ordinary beverage, if that wasn't established by the number of cups of coffee that are consumed everyday, then the active ingredients contained in it will. It is an infusion of roasted coffee beans, water and natural flavorings that is made by steeping the beans in hot water and then letting them cool before drinking.
The beverage contains a lot of bioactive chemical substances which all work together to offer significant health benefits. It contains a combination of vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and probiotics. People need vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, probiotics (good bacteria) to build and keep strong bones and teeth, as well as to protect the body from toxins and free radicals, which can damage cells.
The important active ingredients in coffee include; caffeine, cafestol, kahweol, chlorogenic acids (CGAs) and trigonelline, with the undisputed most important active ingredient of all being caffeine. Caffeine is a chemical compound found naturally in coffee beans and tea leaves. It is a central nervous system stimulant and is a common ingredient in many energy drinks. Cafestol is a compound produced by the roasting process. It is a fat-soluble compound that is only found in coffee and is thought to be responsible for the positive health effects of coffee. Kahweol is a compound that is only found in coffee. It is a carotenoid compound that may help prevent the development of certain types of cancer. CGAs are antioxidant compounds that are present in coffee beans and are thought to contribute to the health benefits of coffee. Trigonelline is an alkaloid compound that occurs naturally in coffee beans. It may have some benefits in preventing asthma and allergies.
Caffeine is the most commonly used psychoactive substance in the world and the neurologic effects of coffee are mainly as a result of the caffeine, its primary constituent.
Caffeine as a drug, has several intriguing and complex effects on the human brain. It acts by increasing the release of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and noradrenaline into the synapse. This is similar to how stimulants like amphetamine work, but caffeine is much more effective. One interesting finding of caffeine is that it is more effective at increasing dopamine levels in the ventral striatum than in the dorsal striatum. The ventral striatum is associated with pleasure, whereas the dorsal striatum is more closely associated with reward. The substantia nigra, which is part of the basal ganglia, sends dopamine to the ventral striatum.
However, even beyond your mental health, coffee has been proven to have positive effects on metabolism, digestion and even your vision. (2)
Recent studies also demonstrate that caffeine is also capable of improving heart function. (3)
How Coffee Helps the Brain to Boost Brain Function
When you drink a cup of coffee, the caffeine in the coffee works by suppressing a neurotransmitter known as adenosine. Adenosine is a brain chemical that regulates sleep and wakefulness. It is also involved in the body's response to stress. If the level of adenosine is high, the body is in a state of relaxation. If the level of adenosine is low, the body is in a state of alertness. Caffeine in coffee works by preventing adenosine from reaching its target receptors in the brain. As a result, the levels of adenosine become too high, causing the body to relax and fall asleep. Caffeine is also an appetite suppressant.
Adenosine is a chemical substance in your brain which is responsible for managing alertness, attention and sleep. It is produced naturally in the body and plays an important role in the way your brain processes information and controls your body's functions. In fact, adenosine is responsible for helping your brain switch off when you're not thinking about anything in particular. When it does so, your brain enters a state of deep rest. Adenosine also helps to keep you awake and alert when you need to be. For example, it enables you to stay alert and awake while you are watching TV. It can also help induce sleep when you are tired.
As you go about your day, the level of adenosine gradually builds up in your brain until it reaches a certain level.
At that level, the adenosine sends a signal that it is time to sleep.
The brain will then transmit this message to the rest of your body and at this point, you may begin to have trouble paying attention or staying awake. Mostly as a result of exhaustion, your brain may fall into a light slumber. Brain fatigue During this time, you may notice certain physical signs of fatigue. You may feel drowsy or even sleepy. You may also feel fatigued and sluggish. Vocabulary may become sluggish, and your thinking may become hazy. This is not a natural condition of tiredness. Your brain may still be processing information, but not as efficiently.
Going to bed resets the adenosine levels in your brain so every time you wake from bed, the neurotransmitter is at level zero.
This explains why we usually wake up alert and ready to go after a good night's sleep.
Now, caffeine is a mild stimulant of the central nervous system so when you take your coffee, the caffeine blocks the build up of adenosine and keeps your cells running.
It does this by binding to specific receptors in your brain designed for adenosine, thus preventing the binding of adenosine to those receptors.
If adenosine can’t bind, it can not build up in your brain and with no adenosine build up in your brain, the chances of you feeling tired and sleepy are greatly reduced.
In addition to suppressing adenosine, caffeine also stimulates other neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine and glutamate.
Unlike adenosine, these other brain chemicals are associated with the brain’s pleasure and reward system.
When stimulated, these substances give you an energy surge, make you feel positive and just generally improve your mental performance.
So yes, a cup of coffee is strong enough to make you a happier person all through the day.
However, as it is with any psychoactive substance, your brain will gradually build up a tolerance to the substance so with time, you may need more than one or two cups of coffee to achieve the same effects as when you started drinking the beverage.
How Does Coffee Affect the Brain?
Like earlier stated, caffeine, the primary constituent on coffee is not just any regular substance, it is in fact a psychoactive drug, meaning it is capable of influencing the mind or mental processes.
But unlike most other psychoactive drugs, caffeine is not illegal which is one of the reasons why coffee is one of the most consumed beverages in the world.
Studies have demonstrated that when taken in moderation, coffee can have a lot of positive effects on your health, especially on your mental health. (4)
Below are some of those significant positive effects of coffee on the brain.
Coffee Can Improve Mental Performance
Research has proven that caffeine is capable of improving mental attention, concentration and alertness. (5)
Caffeine suppresses the build-up of the sleep-inducing adenosine in the brain, effectively preventing the natural process of growing tired as the day goes on.
As a result, the normal feeling of tiredness and sleepiness is never initiated and you are left feeling very awake and alert all through the day.
According to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), 75mg of caffeine which is equivalent to what is contained in one cup of coffee can improve wakefulness, alertness and attention.
Then anything between 160 to 600mg serving of caffeine can be very effective in speeding up your reasoning as well.
So in cases of lack of sleep or reduced alertness like the morning after a night of poor sleep, working at night or night-time driving, a cup of caffeinated coffee or two can have you performing at your best for the rest of the day.
A 2018 study also presented first-time proof that caffeine can increase entropy in the brain. (6)
Brain entropy simply refers to heightened complexity in brain activity within a period of time which is a tell-tale sign that the brain is operating at a high level, this is according to the British Psychological Society. (7)
Increase in brain entropy can increase our efficiency at mental tasks especially those that have to do with reasoning, motor skills and vision.
So yes, a cup of coffee before work or a test might just be the kick start your brain needs to get into its high-performance mode.
Coffee Can Boost Your Mood
In addition to improving your mental alertness, coffee may also work wonders for your mood. Coffee is the most popular beverage consumed worldwide. It is consumed in various forms, including brewed coffee, instant coffee, coffee extracts and powdered coffee.
Acting as a stimulant of the central nervous system, caffeine can trigger the release of other natural stimulants in your brain like dopamine and glutamine which can make you feel a whole lot better about your day and life in general.
Several studies have found a connection between the consumption of coffee and a reduction in the risk of depression. (8)
Consuming coffee can not just lift your mood, it can go a long way in helping you maintain a positive outlook on life if you suffer from depression. Research shows that caffeine, the primary ingredient found in coffee, has a significant impact on the brain’s neurotransmitters. Caffeine is a stimulant that enhances activity in the central nervous system and can therefore increase energy levels. It also appears to improve attention and concentration, which can be very beneficial to people with depression.
Now, while this may not be an applicable cure in severe cases of depression, if you tend to get mild bouts of depression, coffee can help you feel a lot better by providing a mood boost, regardless of how temporary the effect may be.
Perhaps most interestingly of all, research also links a daily intake of two to three cups of coffee to a lower risk of suicide, in men especially. (9)
Coffee May Help Reduce The Risk Of Neurodegenerative Disorders
Normally, as we grow older, a decrease in cognitive function is expected. The rate at which this decline occurs is determined by many factors, such as genetics, lifestyle, and the health of the brain. However, it is not inevitable that cognitive function will decline. Cognitive function refers to mental abilities such as memory, attention, and reasoning. It can be measured using tests that are designed to measure these abilities.
However, research has shown that people who regularly drink caffeinated coffee over a lifetime, are more likely to maintain their cognitive functions when older compared to their peers who don't drink coffee or drink decaffeinated coffee. (10)
A number of studies have also linked habitual consumption of caffeine with reduced risk of neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease. (11, 12)
Parkinson's disease is a movement disorder resulting from a problem with the nervous system. It is caused by the death of cells in the part of the brain that controls movement.
Although the cause of the disorder is still being debated, it is often associated with the death of nerve endings that produce neurotransmitters (dopamine and norepinephrine) in the brain.
Some of the early signs of Parkinson's include tremor in the hands and voice, poor sense of coordination and sleep problems.
There is no known cure of Parkinson's disease and people living with Parkinson's can only manage the condition.
However, while there may be no cure, there are ways you could increase your chances of preventing it by drinking coffee.
According to research, drinking coffee regularly can reduce your risk of developing Parkinson's disease later in life by almost 30%.
Alzheimer's is also a neurodegenerative disorder characterized by the death of brain cells resulting in a decline of cognitive function and gradual loss of memory.
About 70% of cases of dementia in the USA are related to Alzheimer's making the disease the most common type of dementia. (13)
Alzheimer's and dementia in general occur when plaques containing beta amyloid accumulate in the brain.
Symptoms of Alzheimer's typically include changes in behavior, decreased ability to learn and remember new information, impairments to reasoning, speaking and visuospatial capabilities.
Although the symptoms start out mildly, they will become severe with time and eventually a person with Alzheimer's will need round the clock assistance.
Like Parkinson's, there is no cure for Alzheimer's, but research suggests that regular coffee drinkers have a 17 to 20% lower risk of developing Alzheimer's disease compared to people who don’t drink coffee.
Coffee Can Enhance Your Memory
Coffee may help support our mental health, but is coffee good for your memory?
According to this study, the answer is yes.
A 2014 research from John Hopkins University showed that coffee, via its main active constituent, caffeine has a memory-boosting effect that can last for as long as 24 hours after consumption of the beverage. (14)
The same research also found that drinking coffee after a learning session can help enhance long-term memory.
During the research, 160 participants between 18 to 30 years of age took a memory test where they were shown a series of images on the first day and then asked to identify similar pictures from a different set of pictures the next day.
After the first day, the participants were randomized to take either 200mg of caffeine tablets or a placebo tablet.
The next day, it was discovered that the participants who took the caffeine tablets could more easily identify similar photos compared to the participants who were on the placebo.
Thus, if you need something to enhance memory performance, especially when it has to do with tedious and repetitive tasks, one or two cups of coffee can boost the ability of your brain to embed information in long-term memory.
How Much Coffee Is Too Much Coffee?
Modern science has helped us understand how coffee helps the brain and the different ways it can influence us neurologically.
However, this does not take away the fact that there are adverse effects of excessive coffee drinking.
So the question of “how much coffee is too much” remains an important one.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies caffeine as both a food additive and a drug. (15)
The FDA recommends that adults restrict their caffeine intake to at most 400 milligrams daily which is equivalent to about 5 cups of coffee.
This quantity can not result in any of the negative effects associated with caffeine.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises against the consumption of caffeine and other psychoactive drugs by children and adolescents.
However, caffeine is not only present in coffee.
It can also be found in a number of common foods and drinks, which is perhaps one of the reasons why it is easy to forget caffeine is actually a drug.
Beverages and foods like tea, chocolate, energy drinks, syrup, jelly beans, marshmallows and waffles all contain varying amounts of caffeine.
Most of these foods are marketed to children which has raised concerns regarding their potential impact on children. As such, these substances should only be consumed in moderation. (16)
The caffeine from coffee has shown to have many brain-boosting effects. It can improve memory, enhance mood, increase alertness, and increase reaction time. Coffee contains a small amount of caffeine, which can vary depending on the type of coffee. The caffeine in coffee works by blocking adenosine receptors in the brain. Adenosine is a naturally occurring chemical that helps regulate sleep, so blocking adenosine receptors will help wake you up. Caffeine also blocks calcium channels in the brain, which increases the firing rate of neurons. Caffeine is also thought to stimulate the release of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and norepinephrine, which are involved in arousal and attention.
However, excessive intake of caffeine may lead to a decrease in performance, most likely due to over-stimulation. Although coffee is known for its stimulating effects, it has also been shown to have some negative effects on brain function. It is possible that caffeine may be overstimulating the nervous system, which would then lead to poor performance. In addition, coffee contains other substances, such as theobromine and theophylline, which are stimulants that can interfere with the effects of caffeine. These substances have been shown to improve cognitive function when they are taken in conjunction with caffeine.
Nonetheless, there is no doubt drinking coffee is one of the simplest hacks to a high-performance brain. Despite the lack of evidence, the belief that coffee has an effect on cognition has been around for centuries. But until recently, research has focused almost exclusively on the negative effects of coffee. The effects of caffeine on the brain are complex and can be both positive and negative. It is possible that some people may have caffeine sensitivity and drink coffee without any negative consequences. Others, however, can experience the negative effects of caffeine, such as anxiety, confusion, nervousness, or insomnia. The negative effects of caffeine can also include headaches, stomach upset, and rapid heartbeat.