Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Anyone for coffee?

March 30, 2010 by  
Filed under Articles & News

Most people enjoy a cup of coffee sometime during the day. For some it is the first drink of the day. It is great to sit with friends and drink coffee while catching up on the latest gossip and we often make it a well-deserved break while out shopping. Coffee has become a way of life increasing in popularity since the war years. Almost three quarters of us drink coffee regularly and in some regions it is consumed almost twice as frequently as tea. It is easy to drink and always available in the numbers of coffee shops that proliferate on the high street.

Over the years coffee has had mixed reviews in the press. Sometimes it is portrayed as the worst thing you could possibly want to drink, and then another article will show that it is beneficial after all. I thought I would try to put a few facts down so that you can perhaps decide for yourself.

Coffee contains caffeine, which incidentally is also in tea, chocolate and fizzy drinks such as coca cola and energy drinks. Caffeine is also used in some medicines. It is useful as a cardiac stimulant. It is also a mild diuretic, increasing urination, and an emetic causing bowels to open.

When we sleep a chemical called adenosine is released into the brain and this binds to adenosine receptors. This causes us to feel drowsy by slowing down nerve cell activity. It also causes blood vessels to dilate probably to allow more oxygen to circulate during sleep. Caffeine looks rather like adenosine and can therefore bind to adenosine receptors. Instead of slowing things down it stimulates the nerve cells. It also causes blood vessels to constrict. It is for this reason that medicines contain caffeine; if you have a vascular headache the caffeine will close down the blood vessels and relieve it. You may also have noticed that if you take medication for a headache a cup of coffee or tea with the medication helps it to work faster.

The science shows therefore why coffee is the chosen drink of students who want to study through the night or of anyone who needs a boost to appear alert. But it also has another effect. When the pituitary gland sees all the increased nerve activity in the brain it thinks that there must be some kind of emergency happening so it releases hormones to tell the adrenal glands to produce adrenaline, the fight or flight hormone.

This affects the body in a number of ways:

  • Pupils dilate
  • Breathing tubes open
  • Heart beats faster
  • Surface blood vessels constrict to slow blood flow from cuts and increase blood flow to muscles.
  • Blood pressure rises
  • Blood flow to the stomach slows
  • The liver releases sugar into the bloodstream for extra energy
  • Muscles tighten ready for action.


All this explains why after drinking a large cup of coffee your hands get cold, your muscles can tense, you feel excited and you can feel your heartbeat increasing-and why you cant sleep if you drink coffee at night.

Caffeine can also increase dopamine levels in the brain in the same way that heroine and cocaine do. Dopamine activates pleasure centres of the brain. caffeine can also delay reabsorption of dopamine. Given this feeling of pleasure it is no wonder some people can feel addicted to coffee.

Unfortunately, the effects spiral, after drinking coffee Once the adrenaline wears of you tend to feel tired and you can feel mildly depressed so the answer is to have another cup of coffee causing another state of emergency in the body. As you can see it is not a very healthy situation and it also makes you feel jittery and irritable.

Caffeine has an effect on your sleep as already explained and you might avoid caffeine later in the day but the effects last. If you drink a large coffee containing 200mg of caffeine at 3pm, six hours later 100mg is still in your system. You may be able to fall asleep but the quality of sleep is disrupted and of course you need that coffee first thing in the morning to get you going, so the cycle is perpetuated.

Health Benefits

According to the British Coffee Association there is emerging evidence in favour of moderate coffee drinking. Dr Sarah Jarvis says

‘We need to be aware that there are many misconceptions about coffee that are simply not true. There is strong scientific evidence to suggest that moderate coffee consumption (4-5 cups per day) may confer a variety of health benefits and should be enjoyed when we take our breaks in the day.’

Coffee is one of the most widely researched commodities and overwhelming scientific evidence shows that, when drunk in moderation it is safe for the general public and may confer health benefits.

  • A cup of coffee contributes to daily fluid intake. This is recognised by the Food Standards Agency and the British Dietetic Association
  • Coffee is not associated with any increase in risk of heart disease. A study published in June 2008 showed that women who drank 3 cups of coffee per day were 25% less likely to die of heart disease.
  • Coffee has been shown to protect against cognitive decline and other neurological disorders. It has been associated with a decreased risk of developing Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
  • Three or more cups of coffee a day have been shown to lower the risk of liver cirrhosis by 71%
  • Coffee may help prevent the development of type 2 diabetes. People who drink 4 cups of coffee per day have been found to have a 67% lower risk of developing the disease.


 As a therapist I advise my clients to try to limit their intake of caffeine particularly after treatment so that they can maximise the relaxing benefits of the treatment.

It might be worth counting the number of cups of coffee and tea you drink during the day just out of interest, you might be surprised, I know I was. Remember that energy drinks and cola also contain caffeine. If you want to cut down do so gradually especially if you drink quite a lot as you can experience withdrawal symptoms. Be sensible about it, doctors recommend moderation in regard to caffeine intake, Relax and enjoy your coffee.