DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – The next time you're at a coffee shop, go ahead, order a large. The caffeine in that morning cup of joe can actually be good for your brain.
"Taken at the proper time, caffeine can be just fine," said Dr. Robert Greene of UT Southwestern. "In fact is can be neuro-protective."
Greene has been studying the effects caffeine has on brain tissue for nearly two decades. According to his research, the reason caffeine makes people feel less drowsy is that caffeine blocks a brain chemical called adenosine.
However, Greene said making you feel more awake is just one of many potential positive effects the temporary blocking of adenosine can have on your brain.
Greene said the proper amount of caffeine to reap many of these benefits depends on a person's metabolism rate, but for most, it's up to 400 milligrams of caffeine a day.
Just as important as the amount, Greene said, is the when you consume the caffeine. He recommends people stop drinking caffeinated drinks by 4:00 p.m.
"If you stop drinking then, the caffeine will be out of your system by bedtime and you can sleep effectively," he said.
Here are our top five surprising effects of caffeine.
- Improves focus - According to research, the caffeine in two to three cups of coffee can improve your selective attention processing. This is your ability to block out distractions and noises, and focus on one particular task. This enhancement seems to be strongest for people who aren't already hooked on caffeine, and too much caffeine can actually have the opposite effect, according to research.
- Reduces the risk of certain brain diseases - A recent study concluded caffeine consumption of more than 261 milligrams per day reduces the risk of dementia in women by 36%.
- Boosts mood – Caffeine can not only boost your mood but it has even been associated with a reduced risk of depression. A study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, found women who drank two to three cups of caffeinated coffee a day were 15% less likely to develop depression over the 10-year study period. Women who drank four or more cups of coffee a day had a 20% lower risk, according to the study.
- Increases blood pressure - According to the Mayo Clinic, caffeine on some people can cause a short, but dramatic increase in your blood pressure that could potentially trigger a heart attack. To see if caffeine is raising your blood pressure, check your blood pressure 30 minutes to two hours after drinking a cup of coffee. If your blood pressure increases by five to ten points, you may be sensitive to caffeine and should consult with your doctor about cutting back on your intake.
- Reduces appetite (sort of) - A cup of coffee may reduce your appetite for a brief time but many health experts say it's a lousy way to try and lose weight. There's simply not enough evidence, many doctors say, to show caffeine helps with long-term healthy weight loss. Plus, keep in mind many specialty coffees are loaded with fat and hundreds of calories.
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