Everyone knows that coffee awakens the soul. Shortly after the passage of the nectar on our lips, our brain is attentive, our vision sharpens and fatigue goes away.
As the French novelist Honoré de Balzac said: “This coffee falls into the stomach, and immediately there is a general agitation. Ideas begin to move like the battalions of the Grande Armée on the battlefield.
Caffeine is the main chemical in coffee, a psychoactive drug that changes the way we feel and behave. Caffeine molecules resemble the body’s adenosine molecules, which build up in the brain the longer we are awake. And since caffeine resembles adenosine, it can block sensors and trick the brain into staying awake.
Given its popularity, scientists have conducted numerous studies on coffee and caffeine to discern its effect on health and behavior. Here are five of the lesser-known surprises they uncovered.
1. Coffee makes you spend more
If you have developed a coffee habit, you will spend more money on java. And researchers have also found that shopping with caffeine can affect what you buy and how much you spend.
Researchers at the University of South Florida gave buyers normal coffee, decaffeinated or water when entering a store. Those who drank coffee spent about 50% more money and bought nearly 30% more items than shoppers who had a non-caffeinated drink. Additionally, coffee drinkers splurged on impulse purchases.
Other studies confirm that caffeine can impact budget decision-making. In a study of gamblers, researchers linked coffee consumption to riskier bets. These results show that caffeine increases impulsivity.
Coffee can even affect charity by its temperature. A study asked people to choose between giving a gift to a friend or keeping it for themselves, led by psychologist John Bargh of Yale University. Participants holding a hot therapeutic compress were more generous and gave the gift away, but those holding a cold compress kept it to themselves.
2. Coffee helps you collaborate
Coffee is known to improve mood, and researchers have found that caffeinated teams work better together. A study conducted at Ohio State University found that groups who drank coffee before discussing a controversial topic rated their team’s performance higher than those who drank decaf.
Participants who drank caffeine also spoke more during the discussion, had an easier time staying on topic, and said they would be willing to work with their group again compared to those who did not have caffeine. .
The researchers attribute this collaborative atmosphere to the cafe’s heightened alertness. It may also involve the demonstrated effect of caffeine on problem solving, which could also have helped generate more productive discussions. In a studyparticipants who took a caffeine pill found more solutions than those who took a placebo.
3. Coffee makes you hard
In addition to sharpening the mind, coffee appears to increase pain tolerance. Psychologist Burel Goodin at the University of Alabama found that people who usually consume caffeinated products can better withstand uncomfortable physical stresses. People who ran on caffeine were less sensitive to heat and mechanical pressure.
This could explain why people who consume caffeine before exercising tend to perform better. Caffeine is one of most used supplements to increase athletic ability in a wide variety of sports and activities. Research carried out at the University of Granada showed that drinking strong coffee half an hour before exercise can increase fat burning. However, habitual consumers may develop a level of caffeine tolerance that negates its performance-enhancing benefits.
Studies also suggest that coffee drinkers tend to live longer, with lower risks of multiple diseases, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and certain cancers. Scientists recently discovered a protective characteristic of caffeine that works deep within the cells of our body: it improves the function of mitochondria.
Mitochondria are the so-called “powerhouses” of the cell that generate energy. Researchers have found that caffeine protects cardiovascular cells from damage. Other studies suggest that caffeine counteracts the effects pro-inflammatory molecules that accumulate in the body as it ages.
4. Coffee has an unconscious influence
The invigorating effects of coffee can influence our minds and behavior without even taking a sip. A study carried out at the University of Toronto found that subjects who were simply exposed to coffee cues — seeing a cup of coffee or a Starbucks store — became more alert and attentive. Notably, coffee cues affected participants from Western cultures more than those where coffee dominates societies less.
Adriana Madzharov, behavioral scientist, Stevens Institute of Technology conducted a similar study and had participants solve algebra problems in a scent-free or coffee-smelling room. Those who worked with the pleasant aroma of coffee had better results. Based on these findings, Madzharov suggests that employers and retailers “can use subtle scents to help shape the experience of employees or occupants with their environment.”
Another unconscious influence is how people like their coffee. A University of Pennsylvania study found that American liberals were almost twice as likely as conservatives to drink lattes. Surveys suggest that liberals may be more open to globalization, while conservatives tend to be more averse to products they perceive as ‘foreign’.
5. Your love of coffee may be in your genes.
There are two major reasons why some people don’t like coffee: one has to do with the tongue and the other with the liver.
About 25% of people are “supertasters,” a condition of heightened sensitivity to the chemicals that give food and drink their flavor. Genetic variations in so-called TAS2R genes influence the configuration of taste buds and affect how people perceive different flavors. Supertasters might find the bitter chemicals in coffee, such as caffeine and quinine, overwhelming.
Other types of genetic variations cannot compensate for bitter coffee with sugar or cream. For instance, CYP1A2 is a gene which produces a liver enzyme that breaks down caffeine. People who have a version of this gene, designated CYP1A2*1F, do not process caffeine as quickly. In practice, this means that the drug remains active in the body for longer, which can cause tremors and nausea.
People who are slow to process caffeine may also be at increased risk of heart attack and hypertension when ingesting excess caffeine. As with any drug, the body adapts and develops a tolerance, which means it takes more of it to feel the effect.