For a very long time, medicine and science believed that ingesting coffee, or the caffeine in coffee to be precise, would have a negative effect on a person's health. Of course the majority of us ignored these claims and most of us continued to consume our favorite beverage.
The good news is that recent research carried out by numerous medical professionals from universities and health care institutes have shown that caffeine actually has many benefits to our minds and bodies. The caffeine present in a daily coffee can help us to live longer, increase our mental ability and focus, fight depression, and even help us to lose weight. So what's not to like about the nation's most popular drink?
The following infographic gives 13 reasons why a daily fix of coffee is a good thing. Additional information for each point can be found underneath.
So let us discuss the 13 reasons why our brains crave caffeine and why this isn't a bad thing.
1. Caffeine Boosts Your Energy Levels
Caffeine can boost our energy levels by affecting the adenosine receptors in our brains. These receptors bind within our neural membranes which decreases and slows down our neural activity, making us feel lethargic. When we consume caffeine, this binds with the neural membranes instead, leaving less room for the adenosine receptors, therefore, decreasing our tiredness.
Caffeine also has an impact on our adrenal glands. When stimulated, our adrenal glands produce adrenalin, commonly known as the flight or fight hormone, which gives us an energy burst.
2. Caffeine Reduces Suicide Risk and Depression
A study that was carried out by medical researchers at Harvard University over a period of 24-years has shown that the risk of depression in women is significantly reduced by ingesting caffeine. This study measured the caffeine intake of 50,739 women and compared this with their depression levels using the Cox proportional hazards regression model.
Although Harvard has pointed out that further research is required, early conclusions suggest that higher caffeine intake does indeed reduce the risk of depression, and by association suicide, in women.
DNA strands break naturally and our bodies usually repair them, but it isn't always that simple. For example, a double-strand break can cause a toxic legion which in turn can cause your body to produce mutated cells which are often cancerous. Naturally, this is something we definitely want to avoid and a recent study by the European Journal of Nutrition has revealed that caffeine strengthens DNA strands and helps to prevent dangerous breakages.
The month-long study involved healthy males with similar weights and diets going for a run. After the run, the control group was given 750ml of water to drink and the test group was given 750ml of dark roast coffee to drink. The results showed that DNA strand breakages increased slightly in those who were drinking water and decreased significantly in those drinking coffee. In fact, there was a 27% difference between the two groups. The test conclusively proved that caffeine can help to stabilize DNA.
4. Caffeine Reduces Cravings
Consuming caffeine can help to curb cravings and suppress your appetite. When coupled with the energy boost that means you can still exercise, or at the very least go about your daily life, with no adverse effects or sluggish feeling, this can greatly help anyone who is trying to keep their weight down.
Griffith University in Australia is currently doing research in this area. The participants are given a drink with breakfast and another two hours later, and their hunger or fullness is monitored over a four-five-hour period.
One group is given caffeinated coffee, one water, and interestingly, the third group is given decaffeinated coffee which means that the test can prove whether a mind over matter mentality has an effect on hunger. The group taking the caffeinated coffee is reporting significantly less hunger pangs and cravings through the morning than the groups who are drinking decaffeinated coffee and water.
The study is still in its early stages and more research is being carried out, but early results suggest a definite trend between consuming caffeine and keeping cravings away.
5. Caffeine Burns Calories
The American Society for Clinical Nutrition conducted a study where the aim was to prove that caffeine stimulates thermogenesis in humans. Thermogenesis is the production of heat, and this heat allows the body to burn calories a lot faster. It is enhanced by exercise, and if you combine this with caffeine, the effects are a lot more noticeable.
The study found a positive correlation between caffeine intake and thermogenic responses. In other words, those who consumed caffeine burned more calories when exercising than those who did not.
The anterior cingulate and the anterior cingulate gyrus in the pre-frontal lobe of your brain work together to control your attention span.
A 2005 study carried out at the Medical University of Innsbruck in Austria showed, using MRI scans, that caffeine promoted an increase in brain activity. Although the study's results were unclear as to how long this effect lasts, even a short time boost on your focus can help in your productivity each day.
7. Caffeine Stimulates the Central Nervous System
The central nervous system can be negatively affected by caffeine as it can cause a mobilization of intercellular calcium and an inhibition of essential phosphodiesterases. However, the National Institute of Health has discovered that in order for caffeine to have these adverse effects, it would need to be consumed in larger quantities than is possible when drinking it.
When consuming caffeine in the normal way - through coffee, energy drinks, and naturally occurring caffeine - it activates non-adrenal neurons and stimulates the brain's production of serotonin and dopamine through the methylxanthine present in the caffeine. In simpler words, the release of these hormones will make you feel happy and will have a positive effect on the brain's ability for learning and memory. It can also improve your coordination.
8. Caffeine Could Be a Lifesaver
As has already been discussed, caffeine lowers the risk of depression and suicide and also helps to maintain a healthy weight - meaning you are less likely to die from obesity-related diseases such as diabetes. Your risk of developing liver and cardiovascular disease can also be reduced by consuming caffeine regularly.
A 2005 study, published in the AHA Journal, showed a direct correlation between drinking coffee and living longer. The study, which was carried out on over 200,000 people, found that drinking 1-5 cups of coffee a day could lower your risk of early death by up to 15%.
Although caffeine can be consumed in many forms, most of us get our fix by drinking coffee. Coffee doesn't just contain caffeine - it contains a whole host of other minerals and compounds that make it one of the healthiest drinks to consume. It is full of natural antioxidants which help your body function in a healthy manner.
10. Caffeine Reduces the Risk of Some Diseases
Consuming caffeine has been clinically proven to reduce the risk of:
Alzheimer's Disease/Dementia: The National Institute of Health carried out a number of CAIDE studies. In three out of every five studies, the results indicated that drinking 3-5 cups of coffee a day reduced the risk of developing Alzheimer's and Dementia by 65%.
Heart Disease: Studies carried out by the American Heart Association have found that 1-2 cups of coffee a day can perhaps reduce the risk of Heart Disease. They do point out that some results were conflicting, but as there is no adverse effect of drinking coffee in moderation, they advise it as good practice.
Gout: A study carried out on 46,000 men found that the effects of caffeine on warding off gout are very significant. While drinking 1-3 cups of coffee a day only reduced the risk by 8%, this figure shot up to 40% for those who drank 3-5 cups per day. As for those who drink more than 6 cups, the risk of getting gout is reduced to 60%.
Type 2 Diabetes: Harvard University carried out a study on 128,000 people. This study revealed that those who drank 3 or more cups of coffee a day were 37% less likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those who only drink 1-2 cups per day. It also showed that for each cup of coffee you eliminate from your diet increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 11%.
11. Caffeine Brightens Your Mood and Vigilance
As discussed earlier, caffeine consumption increases your brain's production of dopamine and serotonin (the happy hormones). These hormones combine to increase our mood and give us an energy boost, which in turn boosts our mood.
Recent research carried out at John Hopkins University found a direct positive correlation between caffeine consumption and short term memory.
A control group was given a placebo, while the test group was given a tablet containing 200 mg of caffeine five minutes after studying a series of images. The next day, the participants were tested to see how many of the images they remembered. The group who consumed the pills performed a lot better than the control group.
13. Coffee is the Biggest Source of Anti-Oxidants
As mentioned previously, coffee contains a large range of anti-oxidants. These can help protect us from free radicals which many medical experts believe can lead to cancer and other diseases.