March is Caffeine Awareness Month, which challenges consumers to be mindful of their caffeine consumption. The intent of this campaign is to help people who drink too much coffee reduce their intake of the stuff. One 8-oz cup of coffee contains roughly 95 mg of caffeine, according to the U.S Department of Agriculture, and like anything else, excessive consumption of coffee can cause side effects. Mayo Clinic says that consuming up to 400 mg of caffeine each day is fine but that taking in more than 500 mg can lead to insomnia, nervousness, restlessness, irritability, upset stomach, rapid pulse, and even muscle tremors.
If you are like 54 percent of other American adults, says Harvard School of Public Health, you drink coffee every day. That morning cup of Joe helps you wake up and face the world, and it may also be providing you with additional health benefits. Many scientific studies show that consuming coffee in the right amounts—no more than the average three cups a day— can reduce your risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease, osteoporosis, cancer, and even heart disease.
Here’s How That Morning Cup of Joe Works
Essentially, coffee perks up your brain.
The caffeine in coffee kick-starts your mental processing power by preventing drowsiness. Caffeine counteracts the effects of adenosine, a chemical messenger that sends messages of sleepiness to your brain. Adenosine works by binding to special receptors in your nervous system. Adenosine levels rise throughout the day so that, by nighttime, adenosine has filled up most of the receptors. This causes you to feel very sleepy.
Caffeine works because it binds to the receptors and prevents the adenosine from docking there. One cup of coffee binds to a few adenosine receptors but a pot of coffee can block a significant amount of adenosine. Furthermore, caffeine does not send messages of sleepiness to the brain so you feel wide-awake and alert as long as you have caffeine in your system.
Take a Peek at the Potential Health Benefits of Coffee
Coffee contains polyphenols, which are powerful antioxidants that fight off damaging free radicals. At least one study has suggested that diets rich in polyphenols provide protection against the development and progression of several health conditions including cancer, diabetes, and cardio-vascular problems.
In addition to their antioxidant power, polyphenols can also help to improve brain health, working to reduce inflammation in two areas of your brain: the hippocampus, which is associated with memory, and your cortex, which senses and interprets information from the outside world. The anti-inflammatory effects of coffee may even be good for your heart, according to one study.
There May Be a Link between Caffeine and Memory Care
Multiple studies have shown that the caffeine in your morning coffee is beneficial to brain function—and could be a step forward in memory care.
One study, published in Nature Neuroscience, shows that caffeine consumption enhanced long-term memory. Researchers found that caffeine enhanced performance up to 24 hours after consumption. That means your morning cup of coffee works all day to improve your long-term memory.
Another study showed that caffeine consumption along with adequate nutrient intake could improve verbal memory— the amount of verbal information your brain can hold for a short time while you solve a problem.
Drinking three cups of coffee each day may cut your risk for Alzheimer’s disease by 20 percent, according to the Institute for Scientific Information on Coffee. Together with polyphenols, caffeine breaks down beta amyloid plaques and tau tangles, which scientists believe are strongly associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
This March, celebrate Caffeine Awareness Month with a big, rich cup of coffee at least once a day. Your brain and body will thank you all year long.