The Beautiful Bean: Exploring The Science Behind Your Coffee Habit

For the coffee lovers of the world, there’s nothing quite like the smell of a fresh brewed pot in the morning. We all associate coffee with it’s ability to help us wake up and face the day, or push us through that late-night work session, but what is it that makes us all so passionate about that cup of joe, and what exactly is it doing to our bodies? While we have a fairly strong grasp, of the stimulating super-powers of caffeine, there is a lot more to this world-prized beverage. Coffee contains over 1000 chemical compounds, and we are only really beginning to scratch the surface of what they all do for us.

Coffee is a mindbogglingly popular drink — it ranks as the second most valuable commodity in the world, second only to crude oil! Our global coffee habit is valued at more than 100 billion dollars annually, which is probably why scientist are on the case to understand it better. Their continuing curiosity about the beautiful bean is gradually shedding light on why coffee holds such a special place in our hearts, and why so many of us can’t imagine life without it.

Why Is A Good Cup Of Coffee So Irresistible?

The origins of our adoration for this black, bitter drink are a little tricky to trace. The coffee plant is native to Ethiopia and Sudan, although the first evidence we have of people preparing and drinking it as we do today — using roasted and ground beans — carries us back to 15th century Sufi shrines, in modern-day Yemen, where the drink was prepared ritualistically. From there, trade took the bean to Persia, Turkey, northern Africa, into Europe, and on to the rest of the world. Ironically, science suggests we’re not supposed to like it. Bitter compounds in nature usually serve to deter animals from consuming things — suggesting that they are not safe to eat — but the distinctive bitter flavour of coffee seems to have the opposite impact. So, how did that come about?

Scientists from Northwestern University, Illinois, discovered that our affection for java is genetic, but not in the way they first imagined. They began by looking for taste genes that could distinguish the coffee lover from the coffee loather, but instead discovered a different genetic factor was at play. In fact, it is our genetic predisposition towards the psychoactive properties of coffee that leave us hankering for our morning espresso. Our brains quickly learn to associate that unique bitter flavour with the way the coffee makes us feel, rather than how good or bad it tastes. There is something to our capacity to taste that bitter flavour however. The researchers found that out of those who were inclined to the mind-altering impacts of coffee, the ones who could taste the bitterness more were even more likely to get attached to the stuff. That’s a powerful case of craving by association!

The Coffee Doesn’t Even Need to Pass Our Lips For Us To Feel The Effects

Those with a passion for the coffee-kick experience more changes within their bodies than the caffeine buzz, and the associated addiction that can come with it. Our drive to seek out a cup of the good stuff leads us to develop an enhanced capacity to sniff coffee out. A study from the University of Portsmouth revealed that habitual coffee drinkers can detect the smell of coffee more easily, and with greater speed, than those who don’t drink it regularly. What’s more, the greater their craving grew, the stronger their ability to detect the coffee odour became!

A team from the University of Toronto discovered that coffee drinkers experience a change in brain activity when they are simply reminded of the drink. Have you ever seen someone drinking coffee in a movie late at night, and then found yourself fighting the urge to put on the coffee pot? So powerful is our response to coffee that an external cue will fire up certain areas of our brain. In this sense, coffee is considered a primer — just thinking about it can trigger arousal and alertness.

Powering Us Towards Greater Achievement

Many of us like to have a cup of coffee before we sit down and get stuck into a task. The caffeine within each cup helps us out by acting as a molecular mimic. It fills and blocks the receptors of adenosine, a chemical within the body that normally promotes sleep. Just as seeing a cup of coffee can make areas of our brain light up, a study from the Stevens Institute Of Study found that only smelling a cup of joe helped test subjects perform better at analytical tasks, such as solving maths problems.

Another intriguing study from Ohio State University found that coffee enhanced people’s capacity to work well within a team. Unsurprisingly, participants who hit the java were more alert. However, they were also more on topic, and talked more actively with their team mates. Their attitude underwent an adjustment too, with coffee drinkers giving more positive reviews of the group’s performance, and feeling more confident about their own performance as well.

Helping Us Towards Our Fitness Goals

For those already struggling to keep up your New Year fitness resolutions — you’re probably going to like this one. A study from the University of Kent identified coffee as a helpful assistant for helping us stick to our activity commitments. One of the greatest barriers to fitness is physical exertion, and our perception of the effort we have to undertake. The research revealed that coffee consumption can reduce how much we feel the struggle, which might help us stay on track with greater ease.

Alongside helping us stay staying active, a study from the University of Nottingham suggested that coffee has the power to aid in weight management. The human body holds two different types of fat. The first — brown adipose tissue — is found in higher volumes in babies, while adults have less. The second — white adipose tissue — is the one that many adults today struggle with having too much of, in the form of stored excess calories. Brown fat performs a unique function, generating body heat by burning sugar and fat, and regulating those substances within the blood. The researchers found that drinking coffee directly stimulates brown fat activity, increasing the consumer’s metabolic rate. Their work continues, with the hope of trying to harness this mechanism in the fight against obesity.

Adding Length To Our Life-Spans

Coffee has been associated with a slew of health benefits, from reduced risk of diabetes, stroke, respiratory illness, kidney and liver disease, to improved heart health. This might be why coffee drinkers seem to live longer. Research from the University Of Southern California found that people who drink one cup of joe a day were 12% less likely to die than their coffee-phobic counterparts, while drinkers of two to three cups a day were 18% less likely to meet their maker. Coffee’s rep. has not always been rosy, with some studies tying it’s consumption to increased risks of a small number of cancers. One body of research, that suggested extreme coffee consumption — twenty-five cups a day or more! — could cause hardening of the arteries, has now been reported as debunked by the British Heart Association, following much more extensive research.

The vast array of antioxidants and phenolic compounds within the beverage might point to some of those positive effects, including the reduced risk of several other types of cancer. In that particular area, the jury is still out, as concrete evidence of cancer-countering properties have been demonstrated in animals, but not yet in humans. Direct disease prevention has been revealed when it comes to fighting Parkinson’s disease. Scientists from Rutgers University identified that coffee contains a disease-slowing duo in the form of caffeine and EHT (Eicosanoyl-5-hydroxytryptamide), a fatty acid derivative of the neurotransmitter serotonin, found in the waxy coating of coffee beans. These two sidekicks tag team to slow the progression of Parkinson’s. Studies in Sweden and the US also appeared to indicate that a fairly heavy coffee habit — six cups or more each day — could reduce the risk, or slow the progression, of Multiple Sclerosis.

Stimulation For The Mind With GRAYLL

For a lot of us, coffee is a part of our tool-kit for being at our best. If coffee’s not your favourite go-to when you need a boost, which food, drink, supplement, or practice would you not want to go without?

The team behind GRAYLL are always exploring for tips and tricks that will make prosperity more accessible. This quest ties in perfectly with their vision to create an App that makes wealth creation easy and simple for everyone. The GRAYLL App allows users to make digital investments, from as little as $10. It uses AI technology to achieve exponential profits and higher than average returns. Expand your capital and enhance your life experience with GRAYLL — and make every day count! Now, we’re off to put on the coffee…

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