Coffee has been part of human diet for over a thousand years.
It’s one of the most widely consumed beverages in the world.
Coffee can be pretty amazing for your brain.
Your skin and body.
It’s not surprising that coffee’s primary active ingredient, caffeine, is one of the world’s most commonly used psychoactive drug.
But too much caffeine can be detrimental to your health.
If you are stressed, you don’t even have to drink it.
According to research, just smelling coffee can make you less stressed.
So next time you need to de-stress, just walk into Starbucks and take a deep breath.
Although some health professionals warn us about the ills of coffee and caffeine, current research has turned the tide to coffee’s positive benefits.
How coffee affects the brain
Coffee is a healthy beverage.
It contains hundreds of bioactive compounds that contribute to its powerful health benefits.
The most important active ingredients of coffee are caffeine, chlorogenic acids (CGAs), cafestol and kahweol, and trigonelline.
While fruits like blueberries and pomegranates are most often touted for their antioxidant content, it turns out a cup of morning coffee is brimming with antioxidants, which fight the damage caused by free radicals in your cells.
Caffeine is the key reason why coffee boosts brain function (a popularly know fact).
When caffeine hits the brain it suppresses adenosine, an inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain that makes you sleepy.
Caffeine causes changes in several neurotransmitters that may improve mood, reaction time, vigilance, attention, learning, and general mental function.
According to a recent study, drinking a consistent, moderate amount of coffee each day significantly reduces the risk of developing mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a precursor to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
While some studies have found that caffeine can improve short-term memory, others have found no effect.
“Our study suggests there’s a real learning and memory benefit, but other studies suggest caffeine is associated with increased longevity, and a resistance to Alzheimer’s disease. In moderate amounts, it could have beneficial effects for health,” says Michael Yassa, a neuroscientist who led the study at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
Although research has not yet yielded more empirical evidence of the potential disease prevention, the upside of drinking coffee seems promising.
Your brain and body on coffee with the first 6 hours
The effect of caffeine is most effective during the first 6 hours after intake. Power of Positivity explains how coffee affects your brain and body in just 6 hours:
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%.)
When consumed in moderation, coffee can be very good for your brain.
However, when consumed late in the day, it may reduce the quality of your sleep and subsequently make you feel more tired.
Moderation is key.
When consumed in excess, caffeine can cause anxiety, jitters, heart palpitations and sleep problems.
While millions of people can drink many cups of coffee per day, many people are sensitive to caffeine.
For people who tolerate it, coffee can provide many impressive benefits for the brain.
To reserve the health benefits, drink your coffee without sugar.
If it tends to affect your sleep, don’t drink it after 2 pm.
It pays to be mindful of what you’re putting in your coffee and how many cups you’re consuming a day.
That being said, children, adolescents, and pregnant women need to limit their caffeine intake.
The mounting evidence of caffeine consumption as a potentially protective factor against cognitive impairment is exciting.
Until we have a clear and huge scientific answer, enjoy your coffee in moderation.
And remember, take note of your caffeine tolerance.
If you start to feel nervous or jittery, or experience headaches, it’s probably time to reduce your intake or switch to decaf.
If you don’t like coffee, tea is a great option, as it provides a dose of caffeine and boasts the same brain benefits.
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This article first appeared on Medium.