“A growing body of research shows that coffee drinkers, compared to nondrinkers, are: less likely to have type 2 diabetes Parkinson’s disease, and dementia; have fewer cases of certain cancers, heart rhythm problem, and strokes.” –WebMD
Besides water, coffee is the most widely consumed beverage in the world. Plants from which coffee beans are derived are refined in more than 70 countries. Drank as a morning “eye-opener” or to burn the midnight oil lamp, billions of people around the world enjoy this dark and tasty beverage.
Ever wondered what happens to the body after drinking coffee? Well, we know it provides a much-needed jolt in the early hours – but why? Well, this article will provide these answers and more.
We’ll take a look at coffee’s effect on the brain and body, the time window of its effects, and the proven health benefits.
Got your cup filled? Good, let’s go!
How Coffee affects the Brain
The main reasons people drink coffee are for its alertness, focus, and mood-boosting properties. Here’s the science behind these properties:
– Certain chemicals within the coffee cross the blood-brain barrier.
– Chemicals effectively block the activity of adenosine, the neurotransmitter that makes us drowsy.
– The transmission of dopamine increases, which elevates and improves our mood, and increases alertness.
– The levels of acetylcholine increase as well, which increases muscle activity.
– It raises serotonin levels, creating an energetic yet relaxed feeling.
Researchers continue to study the potential long-term benefits of coffee on the brain, including improved memory, protection against age and disease-related brain degeneration, and the reduced risk of depression.
How Coffee affects the Body
While most people consume coffee for its neurological benefits, the drink also possesses certain properties that improve other functions of the body. Here are some of those benefits:
– Coffee boosts our metabolic rate, which accelerates the burning of fat.
– Chemicals within coffee can significantly improve physical performance and strength.
– Coffee is the single-largest source of antioxidants (disease-fighting compounds) in the world.
– One cup of coffee contains 11%, 2%, and 6% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamins B2, B3, and B5, respectively.
– Properties within coffee appear to have a protective effect on the liver.
– Coffee helps to support blood vessel health.
The Time Window of Coffee’s Effects
Let’s put all of this information together and explain what happens from the moment you take your first sip of coffee to the time it exits the body:
Within 10 minutes: The caffeine from coffee enters your bloodstream, causing your blood pressure and heart rate to rise.
Within 20 minutes: Two of the above-described neurochemical reactions take place. First, the caffeine binds to the brain chemical adenosine, which neutralizes fatigue while increasing our energy. Dopamine levels then increase, which provides the alert and focused feeling.
Within 30 minutes: The adrenal glands kick into high gear and produce more hormones. Our pupils dilate and may sharpen vision for a short time.
Within 40 minutes: The body produces more serotonin, which improves the functioning of neurons within the spinal cord called motoneurons. This leads to improved muscle strength and coordination.
Within 4 hours: Cellular metabolism increases, which initiates the expedited burning of energy. The body will break down stored fats as a result. Levels of acid within the stomach increase.
Within 6 hours: Caffeine produces a diuretic effect, promoting the act of urination. During this time, approximately half of the caffeine consumed earlier is expelled. (This is called a drug’s half-life – or the amount of time needed for its chemical presence in the blood to drop to 50%.)
As you can see, coffee possesses many powerful health benefits. Affectively, it improves our mood and relieves boredom. Cognitively, it enhances alertness and focus, and helps with decision-making. Physically, coffee promotes fat-burning, and improves muscle coordination and strength.
Perhaps more exciting than the short-term benefits of coffee are the potential benefits in the long run. Accumulating amounts of research continue to demonstrate and espouse the benefits of coffee against cancer, depression, cardiovascular disease, stroke, and other serious ailments.
Relatedly, it’s important to understand that the properties of coffee beans provide most of the abovementioned benefits. Energy drinks, energy “shots,” and many other caffeine-laden products on the market are loaded with sugar, unnatural chemicals, and preservatives. The same applies to canned or bottled coffee.
The Food and Drug Administration recommend limiting caffeine intake to 400 milligrams (mg) or less per day, or the equivalent of about 4 cups (the average adult consumes about 200 mg.) Also, make sure to supplement your coffee with plenty of water and a healthy diet to mitigate the notorious side effects (e.g. jitters, crashing out, or heartburn.)
Let’s get brewin’!
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Bealer, B.K. & Weinberg, B.A. (2016). Caffeine & Neurotransmitters. Retrieved May 26, 2017, from http://worldofcaffeine.com/caffeine-and-neurotransmitters/
Gunnars, K., BSc. (2016, September 08). 13 Health Benefits of Coffee, Based on Science. Retrieved May 26, 2017, from https://authoritynutrition.com/top-13-evidence-based-health-benefits-of-coffee/
Osterweil, N., Coffee and Your Health. Retrieved May 26, 2017, from http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/coffee-new-health-food#1