Is the Coffee Rush All in Your Head?

September 04, 2011

A research team in Britain recently found that the rush from drinking a morning coffee may be in the drinker’s mind. The research results were reported this week by Sky News. To find this out, the team from the University of East London conducted a simple test. They gave 88 volunteers, aged 18 to 47, two or more cups of coffee daily. The volunteers, who confessed to being “addicts”, reported that their mood and performance improved after drinking the coffee. There is only one problem with this claim – the researchers lied, and instead of giving all the volunteers regular coffee, they had given half of them decaffeinated. The immediate conclusion is that the rush is really all in the head, born of expectation. Another part of the study involved putting the volunteers through a series of tests dealing with mental agility, reaction times and mood. Though both groups showed improvement in their performance following the coffee consumption, the decaf drinkers – thinking they drank caffeine – actually did better on the reaction time test. The researchers suggested that the expectation of increased reaction ability might provide a power that is at least as good, if not better, than the caffeine confers. Though it wasn’t stated, it could also be true that the expectation worked for both groups, and that the caffeine actually did little to increase mental ability. Then again, could there be something else in coffee which helps stimulate reaction time? Regardless, study after study has found that caffeine is associated with mental enhancement and energy. This was a very small sample, so until a larger study is done to confirm these results, they may still be in question. Whatever the conclusion, it can’t hurt to let your mind direct the kind of response to coffee that you most desire, whether that is more energy or a relaxed mood.



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