Coffee: Helpful Study Tool or Dangerously Addictive?


  1. What are the effects of coffee?
  2. How does caffeine affect the brain?
  3. Why shouldn't a child drink coffee?


Although coffee has many benefits when it’s consumed (by adults!) in moderation, the reality is very different when it comes to children. When kids drink coffee, this can lead to sleep disorders and potentially make them more vulnerable to future addictions. But how exactly does caffeine affect the brain and why is it dangerous for kids? Keep on reading to find out. mac-book-study-coffee


What are the effects of coffee?


Coffee beans are the seeds of the coffee plant. They have everything from antioxidant properties, due to their polyphenols, to significant concentrations of calcium, magnesium and potassium. The special feature of coffee compared to other vegetables is that it contains caffeine. This molecule belongs to the methylxanthine family, which also includes theophylline in tea and theobromine in chocolate.

One of the negative effects of coffee on the body is due to its acidity. ☕ The acidic substance weakens tooth enamel and, once it reaches the stomach, will irritate the gastric mucosa and increase the risk of heartburn. 🔥

By infusing coffee beans in water, we manage to extract these properties from the liquid so that they’ll be absorbed in our small intestine. There, the caffeine, polyphenols, vitamins and other nutrients found in coffee passes into the bloodstream and, thanks to the beating of the heart, affects the whole body, including the brain 🧠. 

Coffee is known to pose both health benefits and harms, both of which are down to good old caffeine. 


How does caffeine affect the brain?


Adenosine is a substance that our brains produce throughout the day. Think of adenosine as the waste product of mental activity. The more hours we stay awake, the more adenosine we produce and, although it’s considered a waste product, it plays a decisive role in helping us to fall asleep. 😴

When adenosine binds to the appropriate receptors, it produces a sedative effect which, together with the production of melatonin, makes us fall asleep. 

Interestingly, adenosine and caffeine molecules are so similar that these receptors in the brain cannot distinguish between them. When we drink coffee and caffeine passes from the bloodstream into the brain, it binds to the adenosine receptors and blocks them. This inhibits the sedation that induces sleep. 

What’s more, when caffeine binds to these receptors, it releases doses of dopamine that produce pleasure in the brain. Along with this dopamine release, pathways linked to stress and alertness are activated. The typical activation sensations of coffee include an increased heart rate and a release of adrenaline. Caffeine doesn't actually make us any more awake or alert than we already are, it simply prevents us from falling asleep and stresses us out. 😖


Why shouldn't a child drink coffee? 


Due to the nature of caffeine and its effects on dopamine production, it is considered a drug, i.e. a substance with psychoactive and stimulating effects.

When we drink coffee, the feeling of pleasure associated with the release of dopamine is addictive. Furthermore, it’s very easy to build up a tolerance to coffee and, therefore, require more and more to achieve the same effect.

When all the adenosine receptors are blocked with caffeine, the brain generates more receptors so that adenosine can bind to some of them and perform the function of putting us to sleep. The more new receptors the brain generates, the more coffee we need to cover them all to get a satisfactory effect.

When tolerance has been established, many people are still able to fall asleep despite drinking coffee before bed, but the quality of sleep is poor because, even when asleep, caffeine continues to trigger the release of adrenaline and stressors in the body that do not allow deep and restful sleep.

Protecting children's brain development is essential for their present and future health. Appropriate rest habits and screen time limits will encourage the adequate and healthy sleep that is so vital for child development. 🛌🏼

If we allow caffeine to interfere with the brain at an early age, we may hinder the proper development of these sleep-inducing mechanisms. And that’s not all. Consuming caffeine at a young age can make children more vulnerable to future addictions. Caffeine reinforces a dopaminergic system that could make your child more susceptible to other substances in the future.

It’s important to understand that while the bitter taste of coffee is not appealing to many children and adolescents, the sweetness of soft drinks such as cola, 🥤 ice tea, or energy drinks is. Sugary drinks such as these are also important to watch out for as they can play havoc with energy levels. Think twice before allowing your child to get hooked on caffeine. Instead, focus on healthy brain foods, a good night sleep and helpful revision techniques when it comes to getting them through their studies. You’ve got this!

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