According to Time Magazine, 83% of Americans drink coffee, with people averaging three cups daily. What’s more remarkable, though, is how loyal we coffee enthusiasts are to our daily cup of joe. Eighty-two percent of coffee drinkers consume it every day. Considering how busy most people’s mornings are, the length of most coffee shop lines, and how expensive coffee can be (according to Zagat, Americans pay $3.28 per drink on average, which, when added up over several cups, can equate to more than the cost of a typical lunch), it’s amazing how sticky the habit is.
Why Do We Love Coffee So Much?
The short answer is that it makes us feel good and it helps us to survive our hectic lives. How’s it do it? Caffeine, like a drug, alters our brain chemistry by acting like a molecular bully. It is similar in structure to a brain molecule called adenosine. The presence of adenosine in our brains, as monitored by adenosine receptors, is what tells us when we’re tired. Like an identical twin who steals his brother’s date, caffeine mimics adenosine and binds to our receptors, thus cutting off adenosine’s lines of communication with the brain. This then jolts our nerve cells awake, increases dopamine activity, and causes our pituitary gland to release adrenaline. What’s the result of this chemical dance? An addictive energy that makes coffee the most widely used drug in the world.
The World’s Most Widely Consumed Drug
A drug? Yes- coffee is a drug. But don’t sign up for rehab just yet. The label “drug” tends to carry negative connotations, but coffee is an exception. Not only does it help you rally in the face of life’s challenges, it also totes a long list of health benefits. Although the research isn’t definitive, it’s believed that caffeine may reduce your risk for certain cancers, boost your long-term memory, protect you against certain neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s, decrease your chances of developing heart disease, and protect you against Type II Diabetes. Because it’s a vasodilator, it also helps ease headaches. As if those aren’t enough reasons to drink coffee, here are two more: It may affect weight by acting as an appetite suppressant and by stimulating thermogenesis, and it can also be used as a performance enhancer. Because it dilates blood vessels and increases adrenaline levels, it can improve athletic performance and, by aiding concentration, it can boost cognitive function. The long list of benefits is ever growing as more research is conducted. Even if we are still unsure of the degree and the exact nature of its effects, it seems safe to conclude that coffee does carry health benefits.
The Dark Side of Your Brew
Before you pour that extra cup, though, you may want to hear the rest of coffee’s story. I’m sorry to say, coffee does have its dark side. There is such a thing as too much caffeine. In fact, it can be deadly. Caffeine’s lethal limit is about 10 g, the equivalent of 75 cups of coffee. That may sound like a lot, but you don’t have to consume nearly that much to see its negative effects. Too much caffeine can quickly translate into the jitters and can give you an upset stomach, insomnia, anxiety, irritability, and tachycardia. For adults, 400 mg of caffeine (about three cups of coffee) is the recommended daily dose.
So What’s the Truth About Coffee?
As long as you limit your coffee consumption, you don’t have to feel guilty about your addiction. Caffeine can be a daily ally- especially if you do intermittent fasting, thanks to its power as an appetite suppressant- and it may even bring you some great long-term health benefits.