Caffeine and the brain


What is caffeine?

Caffeine is a naturally occurring chemical compound found in plant constituents such as coffee and cocoa beans, tea leaves, guarana berries, and the kola nut, and has a long history of human consumption for its famously stimulating effects. Today, 80% of the world’s population consumes a caffeinated product each day, and this number goes up to 90% for adults in North America.

Caffeine effects on the nervous system

Caffeine acts mainly on the brain, specifically on the neurotransmitter adenosine. Adenosine’s main function is to relax the brain and make you feel tired – coffee can break down this neurotransmitter, making you feel more awake and alert.

Lower levels of adenosine mean higher levels of dopamine and norepinephrine, enhancing alertness, arousal and focus.

 Studies have shown many potential benefits to coffee consumption, lowering by 28% the risk of developing Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. Giving Parkinson’s patients the caffeine equivalent of two daily cups of coffee significantly improved movement symptoms within three weeks.

Coffee is not for everyone, though. People with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) may want to stay away from caffeinated coffee as it can aggravate the condition.

Recommended consumption:

Adults: up to 400mg per day

Pregnant and breastfeeding women not to exceed 200mg per day

Children and adolescents: 3mg/kg bw per day

Caffeine acts quite quickly, being absorbed in 20 minutes and being detectable in the bloodstream in 1 hour.

A final word of warning: people who drink more than 6 to 8 cups of normal strength tea or coffee a day usually become dependent. So be sure to moderate your consumption.