Why do we drink coffee?

Whether I am yawning or completely awake, I cannot start my day without a cup of coffee. In a way, this addiction is very much like cigarette smoking, because I associate coffee with my morning routine. But could there be some sort of a scientific explanation for this?

Coffee has various addicting characteristics, never mind the caffeine drug. It is physically warm or cold and can either make us feel warmer during the winter, or cool us down during the summer. It also has a crisp, burnt smell, which triggers instantaneous alertness (or at least makes us think that we are alert). Plus, it tastes good and does not necessarily need to be paired with any food.

Some relevant research: 
1) Some researchers say that coffee is a carcinogen, which (translated into normal language) means that it is capable of causing cancer due to disruption of certain metabolic processes. For example, acids and oils in coffee can irritate the stomach lining.

2) High heat is produced during coffee roasting and chemicals like creosote (wood preservative), pymdine (solvent, present in coal tar) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (atmospheric pollutants) are added to coffee. Caffeine consumption also triggers higher levels of adrenaline, causing the brain to go from calm to awake. The jolt happens because caffeine directly impacts the central nervous system and triggers stress hormones in the body (muscle tension, heart rate, breathing etc.).

3)Most doctors say that coffee is a a source of fatigue due to its withdrawal symptoms. So, our coffee consumption kind of ironic, because coffee only provides a temporary boost in energy.

But, this post isn't a quit coffee because it is bad for you campaign. In fact, I won't lose sleep over this research and I will not quit drinking coffee. Sure, coffee might have chemicals, but it was surely found to have health benefits as well. Either way, the real problem (if you consider it that) is that we are addicted to coffee. 

Why? Because we have withdrawal symptoms. Because the more we consume, the more tolerant we become to it. And this could very much be due to coffee's ability to stimulate our neuron activity, making us feel that we are finally ready to start the day. After coffee wears off, we may go for another cup, making us think that we need it in order to continue the day on the same high that we started it. It could all just be mental, because we are pretty good at fooling our brains into thinking whatever we want to think.

So, why do you drink coffee?

Personally, I think that coffee-drinking is a cultural habit. Many cultures down coffee in the morning, before school and before work, at lunch, during business meetings, and etc., because the society says it is necessary/cool/proper to do so. U.S. might be the most notorious for culturally-induced caffeine consumption (25% of its residents consume more than 10 cups a day!). Plus, chains like Starbucks and careful marketing campaigns ensure for a pretty long-lasting, loyal-to-the-brand addiction.


Anonymous said...

after reading this i think i'd have much more coffee than as i used to do cuz i have to make my brain dull than as it is.