By Muna Agwa
Illustration from Andrew Nye
It’s 7AM. The sharp scent of coffee beans cuts through air with striking familiarity as I pour myself a cup on the way out. And for the hundredth time, I trust that this illusive dark liquid will give me the energy I need for the day. For some, coffee-drinking is a daily practice, whether they mobile-order at Starbucks or meticulously make it on their own. For me, it is an occasional habit, typically reserved for especially groggy mornings. But wherever you find yourself on the coffee-drinking spectrum, you are not alone. America is quite literally obsessed with coffee. We consume roughly 400 million cups of it per day.
So what is it about coffee that has us hooked? And more importantly: what are the short term and long term effects of the popular beverage?
Well, caffeine will almost immediately create changes upon entering the body. It’s a central nervous system stimulant that increases the metabolism in the brain and blood flow through the spinal cord. Caffeine also prompts the brain to release a subclass of adrenaline that triggers the expression of dopamine, giving you an overall rush. Common symptoms include increase in heart rate and breathing pattern, as well as physical and mental alertness. Caffeine induces the neurons responsible for serotonin transmission as well. Serotonin is a mood-stabilizer, and it can create feelings of happiness and mood.
Possible downsides of all these seemingly positive effects is that coffee can heighten anxiety, cause headaches, and negatively affect sleep. It’s also a mild diuretic, which can mean more trips to the restroom or even dehydration. For all the pros and cons of coffee though, it will remain a staple in the American diet.