Coffee: a Friend or an Enemy?
The clock alarms you that it is midnight and your neurons start firing to tell you: it is bedtime and you are not done working yet. Definitely, you are willing to accept any help to stay awake in a time like this. The most widely used drug that we consume without feeling guilty is coffee, which is rich in caffeine. Caffeine is able to shut down adenosine molecules that cause sleepiness.
How coffee works
A way to visualize this is to imagine a key and its lock. When you put the key inside the lock, the door can open. In our bodies, we feel sleepy whenever adenosine binds to its receptors on neurons. Now imagine you that are locked out of your car with the keys still inside. You must come up with an alternative solution to unlock your car. This is what caffeine does in our bodies. Once caffeine reaches the brain, it blocks the adenosine receptors. Since caffeine is close enough in shape to adenosine, caffeine can bind to the receptor instead of adenosine. When caffeine binds to the receptor, the neurons turn the light on in your head and alter your body to become active and fully awake. The good thing about caffeine is that it makes us feel happy and positive by increasing the levels of dopamine, which is another important brain chemical that is responsible for promoting feelings of pleasure and excitement.
The problem with coffee
Overtime, you will feel sleepy even after consuming coffee, which will lead you to drink more coffee as one cup will not be enough. This is because adenosine can continue to function by sending signals to increase its receptors in order to power down the brain. This is the same reason as to why we have headaches or feel tired and depressed in the absence of caffeine as the amount of adenosine is increasing, therefore we need more caffeine to block this receptor in order to avoid these dark feelings.
Is coffee good?
In 2015, a study showed that the risk of death can be reduced by 8-15% for coffee drinkers. Coffee consumption is also associated with reducing the risk of diseases such as heart attacks, heart failure, strokes, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
Other studies showed that moderate coffee consumption has been linked with the reduction of many types of cancer such as liver cancer. The critical question is how much coffee is recommended to drink per day to get its benefits. There is no definite answer to this but consumption of less than five cups per day is recommended by most researchers.
One side effect of coffee consumption is that it can irritate the stomach because coffee is acidic. For this reason, it is not good to drink coffee on an empty stomach. It is always healthier to drink water with your morning coffee because your body is dehydrated after sleeping and requires water rather than coffee since coffee can make the body more dehydrated.
Having too much caffeine can result in many side effects such as, but not limited to, a high body temperature, anxiety and irritability, trembling hands as well as an energetic boost in energy followed by an even greater feeling of tiredness, dizziness and headaches. One cup of espresso or latte can have 105–110mg per 250mL of caffeine, while instant coffee can have 80–120mg per 250mL and black tea can have 65–105mg per 250mL.
Finally, the benefits and consequences of coffee consumption for our health is still under investigation and more studies about the ingredient of the coffee and its impact are still ongoing. Some studies have found that decaf and non-decaf coffee can have similar effects in altering the mind. Although there is still a debate about coffee, it is always a decent idea to trick your body and decrease the amount of coffee you drink from time to time in order to continue getting an effective result.