For many Australians, the morning cup of coffee is an essential part of te daily routine. But new research indicates that caffeine is actually good for you! Researchers say their experiments prove that the inspiring beverage might also be useful in the management of stress, depression and memory loss.
The new study, discussed on the ABC’s AM Program, has found that coffee can actually reduce the impact of stress on the brain. The team of scientists (from diverse backgrounds including Portugal, the USA and Brazil) found that caffeine had calming effects on lab mice that were placed under pressure.
Associate Professor Rodrigo Cunha, from Portugal’s University of Coimbra, told the ABC that the benefits were attached to a high-stress environment.
“If the animal is not stressed there isn’t a very evident change in physiological parameters or behaviour,” he explained. “However, if you introduce changes to the lifestyle of the animals, what we see is they cope much better.”
Through careful observation, the team found that active enzyme in caffeine blocked the production of a stress related chemical produced within the body. In the same way, it blocked those receptors connected with memory loss and cognitive function.
“What caffeine is doing is not making the system work better; what caffeine is doing is avoiding the system going into the wrong way of working,” Professor Cunha said. “So it’s a prevention of a deterioration, rather than an improvement.”
Scientists had long theorised that the connection between coffee and happiness was likely due to the social interactions experienced through consumption. But the team says its work refutes this social explanation.
“It is indeed caffeine. Because mice didn’t go to the coffee shop, mice didn’t spend more time with each other. All those factors were controlled. The only variable was the intake of caffeine.”
The study is expected to be investigated in greater depth, with human trials likely in the future. The project’s organisers hope that the insights will perhaps change our understanding of the root causes and solutions to stress-related conditions.
HIF is the Health Insurance Fund of Australia, offering affordable health cover with a huge range of options.