The Pros and Cons of That Caffeine Buzz
By: Olivia Frasca
Most Americans will admit that the day does not officially begin until they drink that coveted cup, or pot, of coffee. Whether they take it with milk, cream, or prefer it black, coffee equips them with the willpower to get out the door.
The FDA reports that more than 80% of American adults drink coffee on the daily. Caffeine is the chemical found in coffee that makes people alert and energetic. It is considered the most popular psychoactive drug in the country.
This drug is not only found in coffee, but also tea, chocolate, ice cream, and soft drinks.
Caffeine resembles a natural brain molecule called adenosine. Adenosine increases in the brain before bed and is responsible for drowsiness.
“Caffeine binds to adenosine receptors on nerve cells, leaving no room for adenosine to get in—so nerve cell activity speeds up, blood vessels constrict—and you get a caffeine buzz,” according to EatingWell.
When caffeine enters the bloodstream, it blocks adenosine, the chemical associated with sleep, from fitting into their receptors. This creates a sense of energy and alertness for the coffee drinker.
There are many benefits to consider when weighing the pros and cons of the caffeine craze. To begin, drinking coffee may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.
How does this work? “Coffee’s antioxidants may prevent some damage to brain cells and boost the effects of neurotransmitters involved in cognitive function,” says EatingWell. As coffee intake increases, the risk of glioma, a type of brain cancer, can decrease.
Drinking coffee has also been linked to a lower chance of developing type 2 diabetes. Insulin is a hormone found in the pancreas that regulates the level of glucose in the blood.
Chlorogenic acid and quinides are coffee compounds that can enhance insulin sensitivity and therefore lower the chance of insulin resistance.
The compounds in coffee also make the colon 60% more active than water and 23% more active than decaf coffee, according to Healthline. Studies have even shown that caffeine antioxidants could be inhibiting cancer cells.
While the pros of caffeine may seem compelling for non-coffee drinkers, how much is too much coffee? The Mayo Clinic says that 400 milligrams per day, about 4 cups, is a safe maximum for adults.
The obvious downsides of caffeine are the shakes. Those that are not used to a daily dose of caffeine, or consume more than usual, may experience anxiety and restlessness.
For most avid coffee drinkers that have developed a caffeine tolerance, they will need a regular fix to reach their level of alertness. The body adapts to the addiction by producing more adenosine receptors.
It can take up to 6 hours for the effects of caffeine to subside in the body. For those that have trouble falling asleep, it is best to quit coffee, or stick to drinking it in the morning.
Many Americans choose to cut down on their caffeine consumption because they do not want to be dependent on the drug. It might take a week or two for the body to fully adjust to less caffeine.
Caffeine withdrawal was included in the 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 2013. Quitting caffeine altogether will come with withdrawal symptoms for the average coffee lover.
The brain is used to operating with a certain caffeine intake. Any change in this intake will alter the brain’s usual chemistry. Symptoms of withdrawal can include headache, fatigue, mood change, difficulty concentrating, and nausea.
Headaches are the most common symptom of caffeine withdrawal. Don’t worry though- these effects will subside after a week or two and the body will adapt to this new habit.
For those that have no desire to kick their love of coffee, don’t. Understand that every habit comes with benefits and risks. Feel free to take on the day, coffee cup in hand of course.