The last few decades had witnesses caffeine, in general, has come under the scanner for both good and bad reasons. As the working hours’ increases, so does the cups of coffee. Caffeine was blamed for several health conditions including heart disease, anxiety, and insomnia. For most people around the world, coffee is a source of energy, focus and good cheer—from espresso to Dalgona, cold brew to Americano —everyone has a personal favourite. Most people that love it rely on the stimulatory effects, making it a must-have in the morning.
But, now the waves had changed! After doing several successive studies, the positive effects of coffee are now in discussion. Studies say morning cup of coffee can soothe and focus the mind. A study from the Harvard School of Public Health says two to three cups of coffee a day can cut suicide risk by 45 per cent. Dr Vishakha Shivdasani, a Mumbai-based medical doctor, says, “If someone comes to me feeling low, I tell them to have one cup of coffee in the morning to try it out,” she says. Dr Shivdasani explains that there is evidence now that coffee can, in fact, help in several health conditions including cancer, stroke, insulin resistance, heart disease, and type-2 diabetes too. “It is also neuroprotective, therefore it helps with dementia,” she says.
So what is it about this beverage that makes us so alert and focused?
“Coffee is a stimulating, psychoactive substance, which has an effect on hormones in the brain and in the adrenals,” she says. It stimulates the release of dopamine, which is a pleasure-based neurotransmitter, acting in a way similar to amphetamines, which can make you feel good after taking it but can leave you feeling low after it weans off. “At the same time, it also releases adrenaline and other hormones that get activated when you get stressed,” Shivdasani explains that it triggers the sympathetic nervous system, which is our fight or flight instinct. This primes the body and mind to be alert and focus on the task at hand.
Coffee is really good in short terms but too much of intake can cause health problems. Since coffee inhibits the absorption of adenosine (a hormone that calms the body), it makes you alert and feels awake. It also causes the production of cortisol, a stress hormone. However, a combination of a lot of adrenaline, dopamine, and too much cortisol coupled with a lack of adenosine can manifest in feelings of fatigue, an inability to sleep and a mood crash after the effects wear off.
For those who struggle with anxiety, the jittery effects of coffee can mimic a frightening event, only worsening the feeling. The natural effects of caffeine, like a faster heartbeat or a higher breath rate, can mimic the symptoms of anxiety. “Black coffee might not work for people that are prone to it. Instead, balance the super-stimulating effects with milk (which is chock-full of calming tryptophan) or almond milk, which is rich in the relaxing properties of magnesium,” says Delhi-based nutritionist Lovneet Batra.
PEOPLE REACTION TO COFFEE!
There is no doubt that excess of coffee is detrimental, but Shivdasani says it is totally people genetics when it comes to love and hate of coffee. People with high pulse rates, thyroid issues or those prone to palpitations react badly to caffeine.
Both Shivdasani and Batra recommend only two cups of coffee a day, and these must be during the first half of the day. “You can have it before your workout to help you burn fat as it will be fuel for training,” says Shivdasani while the second cup can be taken while you work to help you stay focused. Batra recommends coffee with a spoonful of coconut oil in it. “It’s a power beverage for weight training because it helps with the energy pathway that burns fat,” she expresses. However, one should put a stop to it by about 2 pm. “This is because the time it will stay as a stimulant in your bloodstream is about 8-10 hours,” says Shivdasani.