11 health benefits of caffeine, the most commonly used psychoactive drug in the world

Coffee in America, by the Numbers

Still feeling guilty about that second cup of coffee?

Chances are, you shouldn't be.

Whether you start each day with a latte or rely on a shot of espresso to get over the mid-afternoon hump, a healthy, moderate caffeine habit can provide many health benefits.

This doesn't mean you should go guzzling energy drinks or pounding espresso shots, of course. Using too much caffeine, or any other stimulant, can be dangerous.

In moderation, though, a caffeine habit could be good for you.

It boosts our memory.

Caffeine has been shown to improve certain types of memory in some (but not all) studies, especially the ability to remember lists of words and straightforward information. Some research shows that it helps those memories "stick" in the brain as well, making it easier to recall that information at a later time.

One recent study indicates that extroverts get more of a working-memory boost from caffeine than introverts. This may explain why some studies find a more significant effect than others. Stephen Braun, the author of "Buzz: The Science and Lore of Alcohol and Caffeine," explains that individual reactions to caffeine vary greatly: while one person might thrive on a high level of caffeine, it'll make another person unable to get anything done.

This enhancement, however, seems to be strongest for people who aren't already hooked on caffeine in the first place, and too much caffeine can actually lead to a decrease in performance.

And improves our mood.

As a central nervous system stimulant, caffeine doesn't just boost alertness, it can also improve your mood and is even associated with a reduced risk of depression — especially when consumed in the form of coffee.

Even though too much of any stimulant can make people anxious and irritable, a mild dose has been shown to boost mood. This is due to the same adenosine-blocking effect that makes you feel alert. By blocking adenosine's relaxing effects, caffeine lets dopamine and glutamine, another natural stimulant produced by your brain, run wild, making you more alert, less bored, and providing a mood boost.

Interestingly, a number of studies have found a connection between caffeine consumption and a reduced risk of depression (and even a lower risk of suicide). However, at least one of these studies specifically found this connection with caffeinated coffee but not tea, though others found the same effect for tea as well.

It wakes us up.

It's natural to grow increasingly tired throughout the day — our brains naturally produce more and more of a molecule called adenosine from the time we wake up until the time we go to sleep. Scientists think this helps us get to bed at night.

Caffeine hijacks this natural process by mimicking adenosine in the brain. It latches onto the receptors designed for adenosine, pushing them out of the way. As a result, we're left feeling more alert and awake.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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