The Brain on Caffeine


The Science behind the “energy boost”:

I have been a coffee lover for years and I always believed that coffee was my magical energy- booster. But when I took the time to read up on the health benefits of coffee, that’s when I learned an interesting fact about my so called “energy-booster” drink: Coffee does not necessarily giving you the energy boost that you think.

Let me explain; when you drink coffee or caffeinated beverages, what you’re experiencing is not a boost of energy, its actual a signal to your brain that is being blocked. Adenosine is a molecule responsible for signaling the body that it is tired. Adenosine and Caffeine look almost identical to each other, so the brain can’t tell the difference and accepts the caffeine when available. It basically blocks adenosine from binding cells and tells them the body is tired. But caffeine can only trick your body for so long, and once it wears off (about 6 hours later) you start feeling the withdrawal symptoms causing you to reach for the second cup of coffee in the desperate attempt to stay away.

Pros and Cons of caffeine

Two years ago, after researchers tested the adenosine receptors and they watched the binding sites of caffeine in a live human brain using molecular imaging.  The caffeine bonded itself and successfully blocked half of the adenosine receptors from telling the brain that the body was tired. But its effects don’t stop when a person puts down their coffee or soda. Researchers found something even more amazing.

“There is evidence that caffeine is protective against neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease,” said David Elmenhorst. “Several investigations show that moderate coffee consumption of three to five cups per day at mid-life is linked to a reduced risk of dementia in late- life.

Currently, researchers are investigating the idea that caffeine’s impersonation of another receptor could possibly be a way to protect people from neurodegenerative diseases. On the other hand, what if too many people drink way too much coffee?   A study was published not too long ago in the Journal of Caffeine last fall brought together the collaborate efforts of researchers from John Hopkins University School of Medicine, the University of Vermont, and American University, which discussed the risks of having a little too much of something good.

In the United States more than 80 percent of adults consume caffeine every day. Research has revealed that many people who have such an intense dependence on caffeine do experience withdrawal symptoms and report that they would not stop drinking caffeine even if it put them at risk during pregnancy, or in the case of a heart condition or bleeding disorder.

“Caffeine Use Disorder” is what researchers have named the condition that characterizes people who find it so difficult to quit to the point where it interferes with their everyday routines. Last year the American Psychiatric Association announced it will officially recognize this disorder as a health concern that requires continuous research.


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