Should You Stop Drinking Coffee?
By Royane Real
"Most doctors say that drinking one or two
cups of coffee a day is probably not harmful. And of course there
are others who say we ought to avoid caffeine altogether."
Many of us drink a lot of coffee. Is all that coffee really bad
Caffeine is so pervasive in our culture and in many other cultures
that we often forget it is actually a drug that affects our brain.
Caffeine is present in coffee, tea, many cola drinks and over
the counter medications.
The most common way that most of us ingest caffeine is in the
form of coffee. And some of us drink many cups of coffee in a
If you are one of those people who drinks a lot of coffee daily,
you probably wonder what all that coffee is doing to you. Is
coffee really bad for you, or is drinking coffee just a harmless
vice? Can it be possible that coffee is actually good for us?
The research on coffee shows mixed results. Some studies show
that drinking coffee increases the rate of heart attacks, while
other studies have shown that drinking large amounts of coffee
decreases the risk of diabetes.
There are nutritional advisers who claim that coffee makes us
age faster, wears out our adrenal glands, and causes all sorts
of untold damage to our cells.
Other researchers claim that coffee, especially if it’s
roasted and ground, is full of antioxidants, and therefore good
for us. Most doctors say that drinking one or two cups of coffee
a day is probably not harmful. And of course there are others
who say we ought to avoid caffeine altogether.
The one thing that most researchers and most coffee drinkers
agree on is that coffee can keep us awake at night and cause insomnia
if we drink it late in the day.
Yet many of us drink coffee precisely because we want to boost
up the activity of our brain cells, especially when we first wake
Many of us feel that we cannot really get going in the morning
until we have had our first cup of coffee. We often continue
to drink coffee throughout the day whenever our energy appears
to be flagging and our brain seems to need additional help to
think more clearly.
Does caffeine really enhance mental performance, or is that just
a myth? Yes, caffeine does give a temporary boost to brain cells.
But the amount required to improve mental performance is not
very high. Even half a cup of coffee will be enough to give your
brain a boost that lasts several hours.
Oddly enough, more caffeine is not necessarily better. In one
test done when high-level executives were given the equivalent
of fourteen cups of coffee in a day, they made their decisions
faster, but the decisions were not of very good quality.
Not every person reacts to caffeine in the same way. Some people
experience greater mental clarity, alertness and productivity
after a cup of coffee. Other people become jittery, anxious,
or depressed when they drink coffee. Although caffeine will keep
most of us awake if taken at night, it does not have this effect
In some older people, coffee or tea can improve
memory and alertness enough to partly offset the effects of aging.
It is true that caffeine is mildly addicting for most people. Some
people can quit using caffeine with absolutely no withdrawal symptoms,
while others will feel headaches, fatigue, and experience
cravings for caffeine for weeks.
Caffeine works by blocking one of the neurotransmitters--adenosine—which
normally tells brain cells to calm down. Brain cells that have
been affected by caffeine will remain excited and on high alert
for several hours.
The most noticeable negative effect of caffeine is that it can
interfere with sleep. In most people, drinking coffee, tea or
cola in the late afternoon or in the evening will cause insomnia.
If you are particularly affected by caffeine, you will find that
the quantity and quality of your sleep will be greatly reduced.
This can set off a vicious cycle, where you feel so tired all
the next day that you drink a lot more coffee just to try to feel
If this is happening to you, cut back on the amount of coffee
you consume each day. You may experience fewer withdrawal symptoms
if you cut down gradually. You may wish to substitute green tea
for some of your cups of coffee. Green tea has some caffeine,
but not as much as coffee.
Better yet, consider substituting exercise for some of those
cups of coffee. If you can’t leave your workplace, at least
up from your chair periodically.
Do a few stretches, walk around a bit, and jump up and down a
few times. Take some deep breaths. A little exercise break can
revitalize your brain without giving you the caffeine jitters.
Remember that your brain won’t really benefit from more
one or two cups of coffee in a day. •
Copyright © 2006 Royane Real
About the Author
This article was written by learning expert Royane Real. To learn
more about how to boost your brain performance, get her new book “How
to Be Smarter” Download it today at www.royanereal.com. 03/27/06