Did you know that caffeine is actually a psychoactive drug? It changes the way we interact with and feel about the world. Some anthropologists have partially attributed caffeine to our ability to work before the sun rises and after it goes down. This common substance is found in homes throughout the world, and so many people say they need coffee to function. Here is a little more information about what it could be doing to – and for – you:
1. A little bit boosts your mood
While having too much coffee can make a person anxious and irritable, studies have suggested that a small amount of caffeine is linked with lowered rates of depression and suicide. By blocking adenosine, a molecule thought to be associated with sleep, caffeine allows stimulants like dopamine – which makes people feel happy – to go up, giving a boost to your mood. Just don’t have too much because then your adrenaline levels get pumped up leaving you feeling irritable and in the anxious “flight or fight” mode. It’s all about small doses.
2. It improves your memory and helps you focus
Some studies have shown that caffeine can help you to memorize simple information such as lists and focus on single tasks, and then recall that information later on which is ideal if you’re studying for an exam. However, again that comes with a caveat; you mustn’t drink too much caffeine because you can end up feeling jittery (“Caffeine jitters”) and unable to focus on anything. It’s all about small, helpful doses. So if you’re drinking coffee to help you study, make sure you start well before your exams to be able to fully benefit from small, regular doses of caffeine rather than end up sleepless and jittery at a 9am biology exam after a night of caffeine-addled cramming (this is the voice of experience talking…).
3. Caffeine has been linked with lowered risks of Alzheimer’s
A number of studies have shown a link between caffeine consumption and lowered chances of developing Alzheimer’s. You can read more about that here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/7326839.stm
4. It can help you avoid weight gain
One study published in Germany showed a link between caffeine consumption and successful weight loss, including keeping the weight off. Anecdotal evidence has long supported the idea that coffee can help to suppress appetite, and now there is some scientific evidence to support this.
5. Caffeine helps you if you have asthma
Another study published in the US showed that caffeine can have a similar effect on asthma patients as one of the drugs prescribed to treat asthma, opening up airways to allow you to breathe more easily.
The consensus seems clear: moderate amounts of caffeine from natural sources (tea and coffee rather than sugary drinks) has quite a few health benefits. The key, like all things in life, is in moderation and balance!