The effects of caffeine on the brain and body

The effects of caffeine on the brain and body

Many of us cannot start a good day without a good cup of coffee. This exquisite drink has become the best companion for most adults today.


  • 1 Caffeine, a great stimulant
  • 2 What happens when we drink coffee?
  • 3 Caffeine counteracts the effects of adenosine
  • 4 Caffeine increases the level of adrenaline
  • 5 Improve our mood
  • 6 Produces activation of the frontal lobes
  • 7 Decrease hippocampal functions
  • 8 Decreases appetite, but for a short time
  • 9 Helps some medicines act faster
  • 10 Power sports performance
  • 11 May give heartburn
  • 12 Remains in the body for a long time
  • 13 Drinking coffee can prolong life

Caffeine, a great stimulant

The active ingredient in coffee is caffeine, the most widely used psychoactive drug in the world.. One of the things that is rarely mentioned about caffeine is that, in fact, it's a drug. In fact, it is the most commonly used psychoactive drug in the world, and that is why we probably do not consider it as a drug. It works at the chemical level offering us that energy boost that we want so much in the morning. But how does the whole process really work scientifically and why do some people need more coffee to stay awake than others?

The caffeine itself It is a potent stimulant with some positive and other negative effects. It makes most of us feel more alert, awake and attentive, but too much caffeine can also be counterproductive.

This substance affects a large number of processes in our body, including our digestion, metabolism and vision.

What happens when we drink coffee?

As we have said, caffeine has psychoactive effects and changes the way we feel and interact with the world around us.

Caffeine is a natural, bitter, white and crystalline crystalline alkaloid. Alkaloids are compounds that have a large amount of nitrogen. Other popular drugs, such as morphine, cocaine and nicotine, they are also alkaloids.

Harvard neuroscientist, Charles Czeisler, hypothesized that caffeine, combined with electricity, allows humans to escape natural sleep and wake patterns, releasing them natural biological rhythm. That change, he wrote in National Geographic, allowed the "great transformation of the human economic effort from farm to factory."

Caffeine counteracts the effects of adenosine

It is normal to get tired as the day progresses: our brains naturally produce a molecule called adenosine from the moment we wake up and until we fall asleep. Scientists think this helps us go to bed at night, since this chemical has the power to numb us.

On the chemical level, Caffeine is structurally similar to adenosineSo, when we drink coffee, caffeine binds to the adenosine receptors in our brain, preventing us from getting sleepy. After caffeine causes an increase in the activity of adenosine receptors, the pituitary gland responds by releasing hormones. These hormones in turn make the adrenal glands produce adrenaline. This hormone causes what is called the "fight or flight" response, making the person's brain and body ready to defend themselves in an emergency. Therefore, it puts us on alert and we can work faster.

For those of us who regularly drink coffee in large quantities, our brains develop more adenosine receptors, so more coffee is needed to keep us awake. That also helps explain why we become exhausted subjects when we try to “detoxify” coffee, since having more adenosine receptors means that we absorb more in our brains. This is why our morning cup of coffee can suddenly turn into two: the more receptors we have, the more caffeine we will need to cover the receptors.

Over time, however, adenosine eliminates the effect of caffeine and creates new receptors so that the sleep-inducing molecule begins to engage again.

Caffeine increases the level of adrenaline

Caffeine excites our brain cells, which is as if it told our hormone control center of the pituitary gland that we are in an emergency. The pituitary gland in turn tells the adrenal glands (located above the kidneys) to flood the body with adrenaline.

It is in this way like the Caffeine increases adrenaline supply, which increases the heart rate, pumps more blood to the body and opens the airways. In this state of excitement, we tend to be more irritable, anxious and our emotional load is higher. While that can be useful for running away from someone or to defend ourselves in a fight, aggression does little good in more delicate situations, such as negotiating in a meeting or responding to a text message.

In addition, caffeine prevents dopamine from being reabsorbed in the system, letting this neurotransmitter that makes us feel good stay in our brain for longer. On the negative side, this effect of dopamine is also what causes coffee to be so addictive, so keep that in mind the next time you're looking at that second (or fourth) cup of coffee.

It improves our mood

How central nervous system (CNS) stimulant, Caffeine not only increases alertness, it can also improve your mood.

This is due to the same blocking effect of adenosine that makes us more alert explained in the previous point. By blocking the relaxing effects of adenosine, caffeine allows dopamine and glutamine (another natural stimulant produced by the brain) to increase, which makes us being more alert, less bored and provides an improvement in mood.

Interestingly, some studies have found a connection between caffeine consumption and a lower risk of depression, especially when consumed in the form of coffee. Research has even suggested that caffeine lowers the risk of suicide, at least for men. However, at least one of these studies only found this connection with caffeinated coffee, not with the tea, although others found the same effect for tea too.

Produces activation of the frontal lobes

Dr. Florian Koppelstaetter and his colleagues at the Medical University of Innsbruck in Austria presented a study in 2005 that showed that Caffeine consumption activates the frontal lobes of the brain. These areas are responsible for memory and short-term attention. Therefore, caffeine can increase these functions in a person.

Improve our memory

Apparently Caffeine improves certain types of memory, especially the ability to remember word lists and direct information, in some (but not all) studies. Some research shows that it helps those memories also "stick" to our brain, which makes it easier to remember that information later. However, this improvement seems to be stronger for people who are not yet "hooked" on caffeine.

A recent study also indicates that extroverts achieve better results in working memory with caffeine than introverts. This may explain why some studies have observed a more significant effect than others. Stephen Braun, author of the book "Buzz: the science and knowledge of alcohol and caffeine", he explains that reactions to caffeine vary greatly from one individual to another: while a person can develop a high level of reaction, another will practically not notice its effects.

Anyway, too much caffeine can lead to a decrease in performance in all areas.

Increase our attention span

One of the most common reasons why people drink coffee or tea with caffeine is to help them concentrate on a task, and it is not surprising: one of the clearest mental effects of caffeine is a increased concentration, especially for someone who is fatigued.

Research shows that commercial drivers who travel long distances are significantly less likely to fall if they consume caffeine in any way: coffee, tea, pills or energy drinks.

However, most people are also familiar with caffeine nervousness, and know that it can be difficult to focus on anything after consuming too much.

Decrease hippocampal functions

The long-term effects of caffeine are not so pleasant. Dr. Han Me and colleagues from the National University of Pusan ​​in Korea reported in a study published in 2005 that Long-term consumption of low doses of caffeine decreases hippocampal functions. This area in the brain is responsible for memory and long-term learning. The authors concluded that, although caffeine could improve a person's alertness for a short period of time, it actually slows down learning and memory in the long term by decreasing the function of the hippocampus.

Decreases appetite, but for a short time

A cup of coffee will probably decrease our appetite for a short period of time, but there is little or no evidence that taking caffeine as a regular habit can keep hunger at bay or help with weight loss.

Most studies that analyze the effect of caffeine on appetite have been insignificant or have been performed only in animals, which makes it difficult to determine whether the results obtained would apply equally to people in a more generic way.

It helps some medications act faster

If you have ever had migraines or suffer severe headaches Usually, you have probably taken medications such as ibuprofen or paracetamol to counteract it. More specific ones combine one of these two assets with caffeine.

This is because there is some evidence that Caffeine helps certain medications relieve pain, For example, him acetaminophen and aspirin have a faster effect, last longer and are more effective.

In a 2007 study by the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, in which some subjects took pills with a combination of caffeine and paracetamol, others only paracetamol or only caffeine, and the latter a placeboIt was found that those who took both compounds together noticed a stronger decrease in pain symptoms, an effect that also tended to last longer.

Power sports performance

Caffeine is one of the most common substances used to improve athletic performance.

If dosed correctly, it can provide athletes with notable performance improvements, as long as they do not use it excessively in their daily lives.

It can give heartburn

Although a cup of hot coffee may seem like a comforting drink when we feel cold or tired, Caffeine also increases stomach acid levels. This can cause heartburn but is especially harmful if we suffer from ulcers.

It remains in the body for a long time

Have you ever wondered why a cup of coffee we have had in the afternoon or even at noon keeps us awake at night?

Apparently so that only half of the ingested caffeine disappears from our body, it should take 5 to 6 hours, so a cup of coffee that we had at 4 p.m. could make us feel half of its effects at 10 p.m. If that is enough to keep us awake and quite alert until late, so it is a good idea to plan accordingly.

Drinking coffee can prolong life

Two recent studies have found evidence that people who drink a lot of coffee are less likely to die prematurely.

Researchers have analyzed the diet and health of thousands of people and have suggested that regular coffee drinkers are less likely to die of heart disease, cancer and diabetes, among other conditions.

However the decaffeinated coffee It seems to convey many of these same health benefits without the counterproductive effects of caffeine, so even if you're looking to reduce your consumption, you can continue to take advantage of its benefits.