Brain 459

What is Caffeine

4 min read

Simon Körösi

Reviewed by: Joanna Elmes

Caffeine, the most widely used stimulant globally, is consumed daily by hundreds of millions of people who seek to increase alertness, reduce fatigue, and enhance concentration and focus. The chemical moniker for the bitter white substance we know as caffeine is 1,3,7 trimethylxanthine. It is thought to promote alertness by obstructing the adenosine receptors in the brain and various other organs. This interference lessens the potential for adenosine to bind to these receptors, an action that would ordinarily slow down cellular activity. As a result of this stimulation, nerve cells discharge the hormone epinephrine, commonly known as adrenaline, which boosts heart rate, blood pressure, and muscle blood flow. Furthermore, caffeine has been found to increase the levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine.

Caffeine enters the system roughly 45 minutes post-consumption, reaching peak levels in the bloodstream between 15 minutes and 2 hours. Its presence in the blood can range from 1.5 to 9.5 hours, dependent on a variety of factors.

Despite enduring myths and controversies about caffeine's benefits and potential hazards, current evidence supports a compelling case for its positive effects. While most research is centred around coffee consumption, the bulk of these benefits seem to originate from caffeine itself. Indeed, studies indicate that consuming coffee may provide the following advantages:



Enhance Overall Health


An examination of almost 220 studies on coffee in 2017 revealed that, throughout the period of the study, those who regularly consumed coffee were 17% less likely to succumb prematurely to any cause. They were also 19% less likely to die of heart disease and 18% less likely to develop cancer than non-coffee drinkers.



Enhance performance


Caffeine is perhaps the most studied supplement in the world. And of course, it has been studied in depth for performance, given the attached feeling of being more awake when drinking your cup of coffee.


The scientific community has clearly shown that caffeine does the following when looking at performance:

Benefits muscular endurance, movement velocity and muscular strength, sprinting, jumping, and throwing performance, as well as a wide range of aerobic and anaerobic sport-specific actions.


Improves exercise performance when consumed in doses of 3-6 mg/kg body mass.


The most commonly used timing of caffeine supplementation is 60 min pre-exercise. Optimal timing depends on the source of caffeine. Caffeine chewing gums may require a shorter waiting time from consumption than capsules to the start of the exercise session.


Caffeine appears to improve physical performance in both trained and untrained individuals. 


Alternative sources of caffeine such as caffeinated chewing gum, mouth rinses, energy gels and chews have been shown to improve performance, primarily in aerobic exercise.


Energy drinks and pre-workout supplements containing caffeine have been demonstrated to enhance both anaerobic and aerobic performance.

Boost Heart Health


A study published in 2021 in the American Heart Association journal, Circulation: Heart Failure, found that consuming one or more cups of coffee daily was significantly associated with a long-term reduction in the risk of heart failure.



Manage Parkinson's Disease Symptoms


Numerous studies suggest that caffeine consumption can diminish your risk of developing Parkinson's disease. Research released in 2012 in the journal of the American Academy of Neurology also indicated that a daily dose of caffeine, equivalent to that found in two eight-ounce cups of black coffee, can aid in controlling the involuntary movements experienced by individuals already living with the disease.



Decelerate the Advancement of Dementia


A 2012 study published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease saw Florida researchers measuring the blood levels of caffeine in older adults with mild cognitive impairment, a condition that can precede severe dementia, including Alzheimer's disease. Upon reassessment of the subjects two to four years later, individuals whose blood levels contained caffeine quantities equivalent to around three cups of coffee were far less likely to have advanced to full-blown dementia compared to those who had consumed little or no caffeine.



Guard Against Type 2 Diabetes


In a 2014 study by Harvard researchers, nearly 124,000 individuals were monitored over 16 to 20 years. Those who elevated their coffee consumption by more than one cup per day over a four-year span had an 11% lower risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

Whilst coffee, this 'black gold', has been banned by the church and societies throughout history (accused of being everything from poison to dark magic), contemporary science has demonstrated its benefits for various health-related matters. Therefore, even if a cup of black coffee doesn't appeal to your tastes, you might contemplate incorporating coffee and its caffeine content into your daily routine in some form.

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