We have learned that – far from being that necessary-but-vile pick-me-up our parents warned us about – drinking coffee lowers your risk of prostate cancer, is good for your gut, and may even prolong your life. Today, it's all about how coffee boosts your brain power!
It all comes down to coffee's beat down on adenosine and its receptors. Adenosine is the neurotransmitter that lives in your brain, building up throughout the day until it finally makes you drowsy and triggers your sleep. Neurons in your brain have specific receptors to which adenosine can attach. When it binds to those receptors, it inhibits the tendency of neurons to fire. This slows neural activity. Coffee – caffeine, actually – competes with adenosine to bind to the same receptors. In this way it prevents you from slowing down, and, in the short term, boosts your overall brain function.
In addition to inhibiting the Sandman, caffeine also promotes the release of the neurotransmitters noradrenaline, dopamine and serotonin. This opens up a whole tool chest of mental improvements, positively affecting your mood, reaction time, vigilance, attention, learning and overall mental function.
One intriguing coffee perk (sorry...) may be the boost it gives to your long-term memory. One study found that test subjects who consumed a caffeine pill right after studying a series of images weremuch more easily able to recall those images 24 hours later, compared to their non-caffeinated counterparts.
More impressively, drinking coffee can actually reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer's disease and dementia. Alzheimer's, of course, causes memory loss, as well as problems with thinking and behavior. It is the most common cause of dementia worldwide, and there is no known cure. However, studies have shown that regular, moderate consumption of coffee can lower your chances of getting Alzheimer's by up to 65 percent.
Parkinson's disease is also in coffee's cross-hairs. It's a chronic ailment of the central nervous system, and it affects movement. Characterized by the death of brain cells that secrete dopamine, it, too, has no known cure. But some studies indicate that coffee may actually prevent Parkinson's. One study revealed a 29 percent lower risk of Parkinson’s disease in people who drank three cups of coffee per day.
Note that, as wonderful as java may be for your short and long-term health, it should still be avoided by children, adolescents and pregnant women.