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Caffeine: a healthy molecule?

Can caffeine have a positive impact on our brain? Find out more in this video.
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Hello and welcome back to the course. In the last article we talked about the effects of antioxidants on the brain and mentioned a few foods that contain them. In this video, we will take a slightly different
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angle, focusing on two very popular beverages: coffee and tea. You might be surprised about the first one. While the antioxidant effects of tea, especially green tea are frequently mentioned, coffee gets much less attention. In fact, different studies show that coffee contains more antioxidants than black tea green tea and chocolate, three foods that often top the antioxidant charts. So are coffee and tea good for our brain and mind? Before discussing the biological aspects of the question further, we would like you to think about the topics we discussed last week. As you might remember, even before we start eating the associative effect starts acting.
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Both coffee and tea are culturally linked with positive situations,such as chatting with friends or maybe eating a cookie. They are very likely to have an immediate positive effect on our mood even before any chemical substance contained in them will start to have an effect. Caffeine, as you already know, is the principal responsible for the energetic jolt we feel after drinking a coffee. What not everybody knows is that theine contained in tea and guaranine, contained in guarana are different names for the same molecule. Recently scientists have begun to focus on the positive long term effects on the brain of caffeine.
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As we told before caffeine could have a net positive effect on mood, but this effect does not seem to extend to the treatment of mood disorders such as depression. This molecule, however, seems to have positive
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effects on other diseases: recently published studies pointed out that caffeine can slow down the progression of Parkinson’s disease in humans and animal studies showed that it can reduce neuro inflammation and toxicity as well as decrease the damages caused by neurotoxins. These effects are most likely mediated by the action of caffeine on a specific class of receptors found in the brain and other parts of the body, called the adenosine receptors. Indeed, molecules that activate adenosine receptors as caffeine does are being studied as compounds of interest for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease.
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The same mechanism that could explain caffeine’s neuroprotective action as well as the positive effects of flavonoids and other antioxidants could also explain the moderate protective effect found by some studies investigating the relationship between stroke and coffee. But what about addiction? Medical studies and our experience again seem
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to agree: caffeine can cause some tolerance to its effect and halting suddenly coffee intake leads to withdrawal symptoms. However, those withdrawals are usually mild, disappear in a matter of a few days and can be entirely prevented if the coffee consumption is decreased more gently. Furthermore caffeine does not seem to activate the same circuits that are responsible for the development of drug addictions. Taking together all the studies unfortunately leads us to paint an unclear picture as often is the case in science.
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However, as of 2019, we can at least say that normal caffeine consumption poses no health risk in reasonably healthy individuals, that coffee tea and similar drinks cannot be considered as psychoactive drugs but, to the contrary, these beverages could help fight dementia and cognitive declineassociated with aging as well as cardiovascular diseases. Of course, this does not mean that coffee tea and similar beverages should be considered as medicine but we can surely treat them as good foods for our brain and mind and enjoy them without guilt.
Can coffee, chocolate and tea improve our brain health?
Caffeine is a molecule common to these three foods – and more. We are all acquainted with its effects on wakefulness and alertness, but is there more? In this video, we explore some properties of caffeine, especially the ones that could be beneficial for our brain health.

Your view

  • Do you believe in health benefits of coffee, chocolate or tea ?
  • Does the intake of these foods affect your mood ?
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Food for Thought: The Relationship Between Food, Gut and Brain

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