In the United States, the average person is said to consume 300mg of caffeine per day, that’s an equivalent of 2-4 cups of coffee per day. Most people have a coffee habit, despite the well-known negative effects. Admittedly, the smell of fresh coffee in the morning, or a whiff of freshly ground coffee beans as you pass a coffee shop during your afternoon slump, are rather seductive. Beyond the fact that we all use coffee as a pick-me-up, the ritual of having a cup of coffee with a friend or loved one is undoubtedly one of the great, small pleasures in life.
A considerable amount of research has been invested into the effects of this socially acceptable stimulant, and while some have associated coffee and caffeine with many benefits, others have been highlighting the serious downsides. Coffee can be bad or your stomach, your kidneys, your digestion, your heart, your liver, and your mental health. However, some doctors have also been speaking about the possibility that coffee may postpone or reduce the likelihood of an onset of dementia. Confused? Yes, it's all rather puzzling. So, let’s start by taking a look what happens to your brain when you drink a cup of coffee.
What Coffee Does to Your Brain
Think of the feeling you have when you are very tired and just about the fall asleep. Well, your sleepiness comes from a brain chemical called adenosine. As the day progresses, adenosine levels rise until they take over your brain and make you go to sleep. Coffee stops the adenosine and instead allows two other brain chemicals, called glutamate and dopamine, to run free and keep you alert. Coffee doesn’t actually keep you awake, it simply ties what are known as adenosine receptors, while allowing the stimulants glutamate and dopamine to continue with their work.
Lower levels of adenosine obviously mean greater alertness and mental agility. Some experts even believe that coffee can enhance the learning processes and improve your memory.
Unfortunately, as with many nice things in life, there is a downside, and I am listing just the four main drawbacks. It has to be said that the impact of coffee varies greatly. While I can enjoy several cups at night without having any difficulty falling asleep subsequently, one cup at lunchtime may keep you up all night. Age, metabolism, weight, and constitution all play a part in your body’s reaction to coffee.
I - Tolerance and Addiction
As with many substances, over time, the brain gets used to coffee and starts to ignore it. After drinking a strong cup of coffee in the morning for several months, you might need to increase it to two cups to get the same effect. Your brain will need more and more coffee because it is now counting on you to keep the adenosine at bay. If you stop drinking coffee all of a sudden, you are likely to get a headache. Is coffee addictive? You bet it is, precisely for the above-mentioned reasons. Apart from being addictive, it is most certainly habit-forming. Do you remember the last time you were just dying for a cup of coffee?
II Coffee Messes with Your Sleep Patterns
Because coffee disrupts the adenosine activity in your brain, your sleep patterns are likely to go off the rails. Your body knows precisely when and how much adenosine to produce and gets you to sleep when you need it. By drinking coffee, you mess with your body’s inherent rhythm, as a result of which you may not be able to go to sleep when you want to. Depending on your physical makeup and your coffee tolerance levels, a cup of coffee in the afternoon may rob you of a good night’s sleep. Having a double espresso late at night is obviously a bad idea because there will be no friendly adenosine to put you to sleep.
III Stress and Anxiety
Coffee actually interferes with two types of adenosine receptors, A1 and A2. A1 is associated with sleep, while A2 is linked to stress and anxiety. By binding both adenosine receptors, caffeine can induce states of anxiety and even panic in some individuals. People prone to tremors are also likely to see a worsening of this issue after coffee consumption.
A racing heartbeat is often a sign of stress and anxiety, and coffee tends to speed up the heart rate, further raising stress and anxiety levels.
Drinking too much coffee will also promote the production of the stress hormones epinephrine, norepinephrine, and cortisol, all of which are linked to an increased heart rate, tremors, and the rise of tension and stress levels.
IV Mood and Emotions
Drinking coffee excessively can also interfere with your mood. Coffee disrupts the GABA metabolism responsible for keeping your mood in keel. Experts believe there may be a link between coffee consumption and depression, because coffee may cause anxiety and that anxiety may ultimately worsen states of depression.
Psychiatrists advise those suffering from depression to gradually phase out coffee consumption rather than stop at once, because of the known physical withdrawal symptoms like headaches and irritability.
Boring Moderation Works
Being disciplined about your coffee consumption may seem like a dull task, however, by curtailing your enjoyment of this popular substance you can enjoy it without risking any ill-effects. Apart from a few unlucky coffee-allergy-sufferers, most of us can gladly savor our morning coffee and even benefit from its stimulative properties.
While coffee has been enjoyed the world over for many generation, the rise and rise of soft drinks containing caffeine has been a serious source of worry, particularly when it comes to children. Coffee and caffeine are unsuitable for kids, because it makes them jittery and nervous. Caffeinated soft drinks, also referred to as energy drinks can pose serious risks to your child’s health. Give your kid water or a refreshing juice instead!
If You Have Coffee, Have It with a Glass of Water
To lessen the ill-effects of coffee, drink a glass of water alongside. Your body will flush out some of the impurities, you will be less thirsty, and still be able to enjoy your coffee just as much.
Want to learn more facts about caffeine?
Check out our Facts About Caffeine.
Hi! We’re Team NeuroGum, aficionados of all things brain-related, from creativity to working out. With backgrounds in art, science, and athletics, we love delving into all the potentials of the human body.