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Life got you stressed? If the newest research into coffee and stress proves to be true, your doctor may just start recommending that you have another cup of coffee to manage stress. In fact, according to a short article at Business Insider, “a healthy caffeine habit could actually help you stay calm in some harrowing situations.”
Researchers from Portugal, Brazil and the U.S. collaborated on the coffee stress study, which involved lab experiments with mice. For the study, the scientists fed one group of mice water laced with caffeine, while a control group drank their water uncaffeinated. After three weeks, researchers subjected both groups of mice to situations that are known to provoke a stress response in mice. The situations included overcrowded cages, cold baths, being deprived of food and water, and having their cages tipped at a 45 degree angle. In addition to the caffeinated and uncaffeinated mice, scientists also did the experiment with mice genetically altered or chemically treated to block adenosine receptors. Of the four groups of mice, only the control group – the uncaffeinated ones – showed a stress reaction when subjected to stressful situations.
The results are particularly interesting for people who follow the science and research around coffee and health, who see a fairly consistent thread across research into caffeine and various health conditions: a marked difference between the short term effects of a dose of caffeine and the long-term effects of regular caffeine consumption. For example:
There’s very little question any longer that people who consistently drink 4 or more cups of coffee daily greatly reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes, so-called adult onset diabetes. In the short term, however, caffeine provokes the production of cortisol, increase insulin resistance and cause blood sugar spikes in people who already have type 2 diabetes. Right now, the common wisdom is that people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes should avoid drinking caffeinated coffee.
Again, the research into the effects of coffee on blood pressure – hypertension – is a rapidly changing and developing area. Doctors have long known that drinking coffee – or consuming anything that contains caffeine – raises blood pressure, leading them to recommend that people with hypertension avoid drinking coffee. Recent studies, however, have found that long-term consumption of coffee seems to reduce the risk of developing chronic hypertension and related heart diseases. In one study, researchers measured the elasticity of blood vessels in elderly people who drank varying amounts of coffee. They found that those who drank the most coffee showed the greatest elasticity – which led to lower rates of hypertension. The researchers also found that those who drank the most coffee had lower rates of diabetes, high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease and obesity.
Research into coffee and cholesterol has shown that drinking unfiltered coffee seems to raise serum cholesterol levels, and specifically seems to increase the amount of LDL – so-called bad cholesterol – in the blood. Despite this, however, people who drink coffee regularly have far less risk of many conditions, particularly cardiovascular diseases, associated with high cholesterol. Recently, researchers are questioning whether the higher cholesterol levels in regular coffee drinkers may be related to other factors – such as how people drink their coffee.
Given the common thread in the above areas of coffee health research, it should come as no big surprise when researchers find a difference between the short term physical effects of caffeine on the body and the long term effects of drinking coffee regularly. The doctors who conducted this particular study speculate that caffeine works against chronic stress by blocking the adenosine receptors in the brain. This effect may explain why coffee drinkers are at less risk for depression, insomnia, memory loss and other stress-related disorders.
One of the lead researchers explained to ABC News Australia that caffeine is not making the system work better. It’s preventing the body from going into “the wrong way of working.”