Guilty Pleasures Part II
Most of us love a cup of coffee in the morning to get us started. But do we ever think about the effect it has on our body? Drinking coffee in moderation can have some health benefits, however as you know, it also contains caffeine, which has surprising effects on the body and can be harmful in large quantities.
Coffee is a great source of antioxidants called polyphenols and contains several micronutrients, including magnesium, potassium, vitamin B3 (niacin), and vitamin E which have amazing health benefits. Magnesium, niacin and vitamin E are very important in metabolic processes, they help convert food to energy. Magnesium and vitamin E play a role in effective immune system functioning. Magnesium also aids in maintaining regular nerve and muscle function, regulates blood glucose levels, normalises the heartbeat, and supports strong bones. Potassium assists in nerve and muscle communication. It offsets the harmful effects of sodium on blood pressure and aids in transporting nutrients into cells and waste products out of cells. Niacin is essential for the effective functioning of the digestive system, skin, and nerves.
Coffee beans also contain caffeine, a natural, bitter substance which is a central nervous system stimulant (i.e. a drug) making you more alert and boosting your energy levels.
What does caffeine do to the body?
Once caffeine is absorbed it quickly travels to the brain. It isn’t stored in the body and will be excreted as urine a few hours after ingestion. Caffeine blocks the activity of a naturally occurring and necessary brain molecule, adenosine. Adenosine is responsible for making us feel tired, it functions by attaching to certain receptors on the surface of particular brain cells. Caffeine can inhibit the action of these receptors and thereby hinder the impact of adenosine. Caffeine will speed up the neurons in the brain, making you feel more alert. Adenosine causes blood vessels to dilate and caffeine causes them to constrict. Headaches are caused by the blood vessels in the brain becoming enlarged, changing the pressure in the brain which gives you a headache. As caffeine is a vaso-constrictor, it can help you avoid headaches and migraines.
When caffeine is ingested, brain neurons are sparked, the fight or flight response kicks in. The adrenal glands receive a signal that you must be in trouble and secrete adrenaline (the stress hormone) in response. Your pupils begin to dilate, your breathing gets more rapid, digestion stops, blood pressure rises, muscles tense, ready for action and your liver releases sugar into the bloodstream, giving you extra energy. Caffeine like any other drug is a stimulant as it stimulates the release of dopamine (the “happy” chemical) that helps regulate movement, motivation, and emotions. It doesn’t make you over produce dopamine but it keeps dopamine from being absorbed as quickly, the effects are there longer than if you weren’t under the effects of the drug but obviously to a lesser degree than other drugs. Caffeine also stimulates the release of stomach acid which is essential for healthy digestion. Like any stimulant after it wears off there is an inevitable crash, you become tired and have slightly low mood so you crave another caffeine hit. This becomes a vicious cycle, there is a crash so you want more which affects your sleep patterns. It’ll stop you from reaching deep sleep.
The effects of caffeine on the body will vary from person to person as it metabolises differently in the body. Some people are more sensitive to the effects of caffeine than others.
Read Part III in the Guilty Pleasures series.
https://medlineplus.gov/caffeine.html https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002445.htm https://teens.drugabuse.gov/blog/post/buzz-caffeine-updated http://www.eatright.org/resource/health/wellness/preventing-illness/benefits-of-java