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Science. Coffee – does it stimulate? This could be a placebo effect, not caffeine – study

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The placebo effect may be responsible for the feeling of a surge of energy after drinking coffee, scientists from the Iberian Peninsula have determined. Their research shows that not all arousal processes after drinking coffee can be explained by caffeine, and decaffeinated coffee may also seem stimulating.

The results of the study, conducted by Spanish and Portuguese researchers, were published on June 28 in the scientific journal “Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience”, and were reported in the media in the following days. The researchers asked people in the study to avoid caffeine for three hours, and then underwent brain MRIs twice: the first time before caffeine was delivered to the body, and the second half an hour after drinking a beverage containing it, not necessarily coffee. The article noted that people who typically drank at least one cup of coffee a day were surveyed.

Wake-up coffee

Caffeine acts as a central nervous system stimulant by binding to adenosine receptors, usually causing drowsiness, and reducing their activity. At the same time, it stimulates alertness and allows dopamine and other stimulating neurotransmitters to work, increasing brain activity. As expected, increased alertness and sensitivity to external stimuli were seen in both coffee drinkers and those who took another caffeinated drink.

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At the same time, however, it was found that the increase in activity in the brain areas associated with working memory, cognitive control and goal-directed behavior was noted only in coffee drinkers. The discovery surprised scientists. “Given that caffeine is responsible for some of the observed effects, it would be expected that other caffeine-containing beverages would have the same effect as coffee,” said study co-author Prof. Maria Picó-Pérez from Universidad Jaume I near Valencia.

“But some of the effects, driven by factors such as the particular smell and taste of the drink or the psychological expectations associated with consuming that drink, were unique to coffee,” she added. Thus, some of the stimulant effects of coffee were found to be a placebo effect – coffee drinkers become more aroused because of their belief in the stimulant effects of coffee.

SEE ALSO: Slows down aging, reduces the risk of heart disease. The expert tells you how many cups of coffee to drink a day

Coffee is a placebo?

In the conclusion of the study, the researchers noted that it is likely that even non-caffeinated coffee can be stimulating due to the placebo effect.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the average 250 milliliter cup of coffee contains between 80 and 100 milligrams of caffeine. The safe daily dose of caffeine for a healthy adult is up to 300 milligrams.

SEE ALSO: Do you want to live longer and protect yourself from heart disease? Drink coffee

“Newsweek”, “Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience”

Main photo source: Shutterstock



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