Millions of people around the planet — including myself — begin their day with a cup of coffee (or maybe a few). There are claims that coffee does this or affects that. Extensive studies have taken place, and I’m sure others will follow. So, to eliminate some of the guesswork, let me fill you in on the actual “scoop” on coffee.
How Caffeine Affects The Brain
Have you noticed that one or two cups of Joe used to give you that “wide awake” feeling? Only to find out sometime later that you feel like you need even more?
Caffeine is structurally similar to adenosine to our nerve cells. The Science of Sleep explains it really well. Adenosine is responsible for slowing down the activity of our neurons. It builds up in our bodies throughout the day and makes us sleepy at night. The adenosine molecules break down when we sleep, so the cycle will start over the next day.
The problem is that caffeine binds to the adenosine receptor, but it doesn’t slow down the cell’s activity as the adenosine does. What’s the result? The cells affected can no longer recognize or identify adenosine because the caffeine takes over the receptors the adenosine would normally bind to. The more we consume large amounts of caffeine, not just coffee, the more adenosine receptors are created to replace the ones we’ve unintentionally blocked. This is why it starts taking extra cups of coffee to help wake us up. In turn, when we try to cut back on caffeine, we feel SO exhausted because now we have even more sleepy receptors throwing our body out of whack.
Caffeine also prevents dopamine, the “happy” chemical, from reabsorbing back into our system. Which leaves that dopamine hanging around in our brain even longer. That, my friends, is why caffeinated drinks are so addictive.
One of the most significant issues around coffee is dumping in spoonfuls of sugar and adding flavored creamers. Those creamers are full of sugar and preservatives. One teaspoon of sugar is equal to 4 grams. That means if you add 2 teaspoons of sugar to every cup of coffee, and you average three cups daily, you’re consuming 24 grams of sugar in your coffee alone. That will eventually add up, and can negatively impact your health.
The Benefits of Coffee
Coffee isn’t all dark and dangerous. Science-backed evidence shows us some unique benefits from drinking the right amount of coffee.
- It might be linked to helping lower the risk of type 2 diabetes.
- Coffee can support brain health.
- It’s connected to a lower risk of depression.
- Coffee supports heart health.
- Increases longevity.
Everything in life is about balance, including coffee. It’s not that we shouldn’t indulge; it’s more about NOT overindulging. I’ve been drinking coffee for many years. I’ve seen the good and bad through my own experience. Thus, I’ve cut back on the amount of sugar and how often I enjoy it. But a steaming cup of great java in the morning? It’s a little pleasure worth savoring.
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