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Drinking coffee: advantages and disadvantages of its consumption

Drinking coffee: advantages and disadvantages of its consumption

May 10, 2021

The history of coffee starts in the 14th century in Ethiopia to , where he began to attribute stimulating properties. From the Horn of Africa spread its use to Yemen in the fifteenth century and from there spread to the rest of the Middle East and North Africa. It was the trade of the Venetian ships with the Middle East that brought coffee to Europe, from where it was introduced to America (Cano-Marquina, Tarín and Cano, 2013).

In Spain alone, 14,000 million cups of coffee are consumed per year, with an average daily consumption of 3.6 cups per day among those over 15 years of age. It should be added that 22 million people in Spain take at least one daily coffee (Ramírez, 2016). These patterns of consumption are similar in America and in the rest of Europe, with the Nordic countries leading the way in terms of per capita consumption.


Therefore, taking into account how caffeinated beverages such as coffee are in the Western diet, the study of its effects in the short, medium and long term has become of great importance . The analyzes and investigations have been carried out both psychologically and physiologically.

What is coffee made up of?

One of the main components of coffee, and that gets its name from this, is caffeine. This substance, which we ingest in each cup, is a plant alkaloid that acts as an antagonist of adenosine receptors in the nervous system .

Caffeine prevents the degradation of cyclic adenosine monophosphate by phosphodiesterases, which potentiates post synaptic neurotransmission in the sympathetic nervous system. Because of this, one of the main effects of caffeine in the body is, by increasing the intensity of transmission, triggering an activation in the body (Glade, 2010). Although caffeine is the best known, inside a cup of coffee we can find, among others, components such as vitamin B3, magnesium and potassium .


Beneficial effects of its consumption

According to the information provided by science over dozens of years of research, it seems that the positive effects of moderate and chronic coffee consumption far outweigh the possible harm it may cause. In the consequences and effects of caffeine consumption are other factors that increase alertness, in addition to the substance itself such as, for example, the personality of the consumer and the time of day (time of the circadian cycle).

Caffeine improves, above all, the performance in surveillance tasks and other simple tasks that require sustained attention. It also increases the level of alertness and reduces the feeling of fatigue (both mental and physical), this effect being beneficial for sports practice. These effects are especially marked when, due to the situation, the activation level of the subject is markedly low (night work, driving on a motorway with few curves, etc.). Taking into account the latter, the use of caffeine can lead to an increase in safety and efficiency in certain jobs and environments such as driving (Smith, 2002). Moderate consumption has also been linked to a decrease in the incidence of diabetes and liver diseases (Cano-Marquina, Tarín and Cano, 2013).


Going back to your relationship with adenosine, In recent years, studies have been developed in which they evaluate the neuroprotective role of caffeine in certain diseases . Adenosine itself plays an important role in the control of brain disorders, with A1R inhibitory receptors (which would function as an obstacle to neurodegeneration) and A2AR facilitating receptors (whose blocking would alleviate the long-term damage of various neurodegenerative conditions). Caffeine would come into play acting as an antagonist of the A2AR receptor, which would favor the phenomenon of synaptic plasticity and, like the other antagonists of this receptor, would act as a cognitive "normalizer", preventing deterioration and reducing its progress .

Therefore, this could be a promising start in the study of A2AR receptor blockers of adenosine, providing new and diverse therapeutic options for the treatment of the early stages of, for example, Alzheimer's disease (Gomes et al., 2011).

The bitter side of caffeine

With regard to the pernicious effects of caffeine, in the review of the topic by Smith (2002), he states that these damages only appear under certain conditions. One would be to be consumed by people with anxiety problems, whose level of activation is already high.

In people not affected by this problem, the negative effects would occur when excessively high amounts are consumed. The intake of beverages such as coffee, in these situations, would cause an increase in anxiety and this would result in, for example, tachycardias, sleep difficulties, or even a worsening of fine motor control (Smith, 2002). When the consumption exceeds approximately 300 mg per day, the motor system can be greatly activated, as well as the sleep-wake cycle can be altered, as well as the cerebral metabolism rates increase in a generalized way.

Although, as with many other substances, the inappropriate consumption of caffeine can lead to various problems, there are reasons to be optimistic in this regard. Almost all the group of consumers makes an intake between low and moderate (50-300 mg per day), these doses being the beneficial behavioral effects mentioned above. Although there are people who qualify coffee and, therefore, caffeine, as a socially accepted drug, the brain mechanisms that are affected by using this psychostimulant differ greatly with respect to other substances of abuse such as cocaine, amphetamines, alcohol, THC and nicotine (Nehlig, 1999).

Why then does this consumption not reach harmful levels?

The area of ​​the brain most related to drug dependence is considered in neuroscience as the area of ​​pleasure, that is, the nucleus accumbens. This nucleus is divided both functionally and morphologically in a central zone and in the crustal zone. The mesolimbic system of dopamine, which originates in the ventral tegmental area and ends in the nucleus accumbens, also plays an important role in the reinforcement of the addictive behavior.

Sufficient amounts to feel the effects of drugs of abuse such as cocaine, alcohol and others, selectively activate dopaminergic neurotransmission in the cortex of the nucleus accumbens , which supports the very high addictive capacity of these substances. On the contrary, the consumption of caffeine necessary to activate its properties increases the release of dopamine only in the caudate nucleus without inducing any release in the nucleus accumbens. This selective activation of the caudate nucleus would be related to the stimulatory properties of caffeine in psychomotor activity.

On the other hand, caffeine also stimulates the release of dopamine in the prefrontal cortex, which would be consistent with its psychostimulant properties and with the reinforcement of drinking behavior. For caffeine to increase the functional activity of the core cortex accumbens, it should be consumed in an amount five times higher than the daily average. This high consumption would activate many other brain structures such as most of the limbic and thalamic regions and those related to the extrapyramidal motor system. This would explain the side effects of excessive consumption. As a conclusion to these data, Astrid Nehlig (1999) states that Although caffeine has some criteria to be considered a drug of abuse, there is a very low risk of addiction .

Finally, taking into account the good capacity of self-regulation by the general population both in the amount to be consumed and at the time of day, knowledge of the pros and cons of something as usual as having a cup of coffee, will favor an even more responsible consumption. In light of the information offered by scientific research, there does not seem to be a more powerful excuse to take a break and have a coffee in the company of friends, family or colleagues that improve their own health. Everything for the welfare.

Bibliographic references:

  • Cano-Marquina, A., Tarin, J. J., & Cano, A. (2013). The impact of coffee on health. Maturitas, 75 (1), 7-21.
  • Glade, M. J. (2010). Caffeine - not just a stimulant. Nutrition, 26 (10), 932-938.
  • Gomes, C.V., Kaster, M.P., Tomà ©, A.R., Agostinho, P.M., & Cunha, R.A. (2011). Adenosine receptors and brain diseases: neuroprotection and neurodegeneration. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) -Biomembranes, 1808 (5), 1380-1399.
  • Nehlig, A. (1999). Are we dependent upon coffee and caffeine? A review on human and animal data. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 23 (4), 563-576.
  • Ramírez, E. (2016). The presence of coffee increases in the life of the Spaniards - elEconomista.es. Eleconomista.es. Recovered from: //www.eleconomista.es/empresas-finanzas/consumo/noticias/7174035/11/15/Crece-la-presencia-de-cafe-en-la-vida-de-los-espanoles.html
  • Smith, A. (2002). Effects of caffeine on human behavior. Food and chemical toxicology, 40 (9), 1243-1255.

Mayo Clinic Minute: Health Benefits of Coffee (May 2021).


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