In Defense of Coffee
Scrolling down these most recent entries, I’ve been seeing quite a bit of anti-caffeine fanaticism. Now, normally I would probably just leave a comment or two, but as not only a coffee addict but a Seattlite– bound to protect Starbucks by Washington state law, I’m fairly certain– I felt the need to offer my two cents (or $3.50 for a tall double shot espresso as the case may be).
Obviously, too much of anything is bad. Let’s get that out of the way right now. Caffeine can make you jittery, mess with your sleep, and all the tanins in coffee can inhibit iron absorption often leading to anemia when consumed in excess. However, caffeine is the world’s wonder drug for a reason: it gets the job done. And it gets it done hard. The United States government has conducted innumerable tests involving coffee consumption and performance including one study on Navy SEALs showing “200 milligrams of caffeine significantly improves…cognitive function, including vigilance, learning, memory, and mood state…alertness and reaction time, even after half a week [or 72 hours] awake.” Caffeine, because of its stimulant properties, has also been shown to drastically increase sprinting speed in another study. The difference between the two times was related to the difference between clearing the crosswalk and getting hit by a semi truck. And these benefits of the brew don’t just come to those at the peak of their physical health like the SEALs or olympic sprinters; they affect the average person too. That means our performance need not only be predicated by solely our hard work, just what every college student wants to hear. And it doesn’t stop there.
Coffee has been shown to have a multitude of positive effects on your brain as well. Firstly, it has neuroprotective effects, guarding against ailments from Parkinson’s to dementia. Furthermore, even in the healthy brain, caffeine antagonizes adenosine receptors which a) keeps you alert, awake, and motivated and b) suppresses dulling adenosine and allows the brain to receive and process more dopamine, improving general mood and productivity. Other studies have shown that it has the protects you from cirrhosis of the liver, multiple forms of cancer (the cultures actually committed cellular hari-kari when exposed to coffee), and even suicidal tendencies.
So before we all go hating on coffee, let’s just remember all the good it does for us too.