If you’re reading this and drinking a cup of joe, java, or as its colloquially known, coffee, you’re using the world’s most popular drug – caffeine. Yet what you may not know is that a level of caffeine dependency can be formed by drinking as little as 100 milligrams of the stuff a day, which is a regular cup of coffee to me or you. With so many coffee drinkers using it for its stimulant properties or merely its deliciousness every day, we could be looking at a great many coffee addicts. So are they onto something or merely on something?
The first benefit for a coffee drinker is the drink’s magic ability to eliminate the need for sleep and make you feel fresh all day. Too good to be true? Certainly. Caffeine, contained in coffee, works by playing on the adenosine receptors in the brain. Normally, the hormone adenosine is released throughout the day and when it binds to its receptors produces feelings of tiredness, making you sleepy over time. Caffeine is molecularly similar and displaces adenosine from the receptors, stopping you from feeling tired. So yes, coffee can keep you going on a long shift or when you have an assignment you’ve left on your desk for months in for tomorrow morning.
“Caffeine also increases the production of adrenaline, the fight or flight hormone”
However, using caffeine will eventually make the brain produce more receptors, meaning you may end up feeling more tired without drinking more coffee than you ever would have in the first place. This accounts for coffee addiction, and withdrawals can cause fatigue, lack of concentration, and negative emotions. Furthermore, drinking coffee late in the day may disrupt your sleep and cause insomnia, so watch out kiddies.
That’s not all coffee does though. Its active ingredient caffeine also increases the production of adrenaline, the fight or flight hormone. This gets the heart and blood pumping, while also opening up the airways. This may give an enjoyable rush, and may even work as a sports supplement, but it’s worth considering the additional strain on the heart, which may be dangerous to people with high blood pressure or a heart condition.
Furthermore, buzzing on adrenaline has some of the qualities of a panic attack, you may feel more stressed and uncomfortable.
Additionally, caffeine plays on the hormone dopamine, producing a euphoric feeling. This is the same action as stimulant drugs like cocaine, just much weaker, accounting for some of coffee’s additivity.
“The first benefit for a coffee drinker is the drink’s magic ability to eliminate the need for sleep and make you feel fresh all day. Too good to be true? Certainly”
Coffee does have health benefits however. It has shown to reduce the risk of several diseases, including but not limited to: Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Type 2 Diabetes, gallstones, asthma attacks, strokes, and cirrhosis of the liver. It also prevents some cancers – one study found that men who drank 6 cups of coffee a day were 60% less likely to develop the most deadly form of prostate cancer. A similar effect was found in reducing women’s ovarian cancer. Not bad, but don’t forget that coffee may stain the teeth, hamper absorption of some minerals like magnesium, while being a mild diuretic that may cause dehydration. The acids can aggravate heartburn and overly roasting the beans can produce some carcinogens.
Finally, coffee is the most pesticide-applied crop. Although its incredibly hard to lethally overdose – you’d need to drink hundreds of cups.
So some good and some bad, but I’m still going to drink it.