Did you know that coffee could help to make you more intelligent and keep your brain healthy?

BSc Biology, AMSB. Currently a MRes Student at UoB. Newbie blogger interested in scientific communication and all things genetic.

in 2008, us Brits drank approximately 70 million cups of the stuff a day

Whether you enjoy a lovely home-brewed cup, or like to venture out to your local coffee retailer, the UK loves its coffee. Surveys conducted by The British Coffee Association and Mintel UK report that in 2008, us Brits drank approximately 70 million cups of the stuff a day! They also reported that in 2012, the amount spent on retail coffee alone broke the £1 billion mark. Now that is a hell of a lot of coffee consumption. Everyone has their favourite instant brand, from Nescafe and Kenco, to Douwe Egberts, and Companies like Starbucks and Costa are doing very well due to our growing love for coffee when meeting with friends to discuss life stresses.

Coffee drinking has become so popular in recent years that everyone I meet seems to be a pro! I like to think I know a little about how to make a good cup of coffee from working in various different coffee shops, but even I am overwhelmed by all the different mechanisms there are out there now to help you perfect your coffee. I’m not talking about the standard coffee makers, but the chemex brewer and the single cup cone – heard of them? No, neither have I. But all the independent coffee shops on high-street corners are well equipped with the newest gear, eager to teach their customers how to use them. There is even a new coffee shop on Temple Row that uses a Bunsen burner – coffee making really is a scientific art!

With exams just around the corner, we thought we’d share some beneficial facts about coffee to help boost your motivation through the revision period:

1. Coffee is full of antioxidants and has been shown to have antidepressant properties.

Those that drink 4 cups of coffee a day are 10% less likely to be depressed

Antioxidants are small chemicals that prevent free radicals (other types of chemicals) from damaging our cells; such damage could lead to cancer. A study by the University of Scranton, Pennsylvania, has indicated that our bodies can actually absorb more antioxidants from coffee than we can from fruit and vegetables. The National Institute of Health have also conducted a study demonstrating that people who drink 4 or more cups of coffee a day are 10% less likely to be depressed.

2. Many coffee drinks contain fewer calories and better health benefits than smoothies.

smoothiesYes, smoothies can be good for you and do boast many healthy properties, but it completely depends on how they are made. For instance, removing the peel of some fruits, along with mashing them up, actually causes a loss of important fibres and antioxidants and leaves you with a highly sugary drink. Out of 52 commercial smoothies tested, 41 contained more sugar than a 12oz can of coke. That’s the equivalent of 9 teaspoons of sugar! Depending on your choice of coffee drink, they will usually contain far fewer calories than a smoothie. For example, a small cappuccino contains around 70 calories per cup, while a latte contains around 150. Of course, if you’re counting your calories, go for an Americano or a classic cup of the golden old instant stuff.

3. It can make you a better athlete.

drinking coffee increases the number of fatty acids in your bloodstream

A study by the Spanish Anti Doping Agency in Spain demonstrated that drinking coffee increases the number of fatty acids in your bloodstream. Your muscles can then absorb these fatty acids and burn them as fuel, maintaining your stocks of carbohydrates for later. So if you are taking part in a mud run or an endurance course soon, I recommend having a cup of coffee before you set off.


arteries4. Coffee drinkers have demonstrated ‘cleaner’ arteries.

A recent study in Korea has suggested that regular coffee drinkers tend to have cleaner arteries by preventing blockages. They conducted medical scans, looking for calcium deposits in the walls of coronary arteries – the tell-tale sign of the development of heart disease. Those that regularly drank coffee presented less deposits than those who did not regularly drink coffee.


5. It can improve intelligence and help to keep your brain healthier for longer.

coffee drinkers over the age of 65 are likely to delay Alzheimer’s disease by 2-4 years

Now, this one may seem too good to be true, but just bear with me. The Medical University in Austria has shown that drinking coffee helps to improve several factors related to intelligence including, reaction time, vigilance, attention and logical reasoning. What’s more is that studies by the University of South Florida and the University of Miami have demonstrated that regular coffee drinkers over the age of 65 are likely to delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease by 2-4 years.

Moral of the story? Coffee really isn’t that bad for you, especially in moderation. There is no daily recommended limit for safe coffee consumption in the UK, but it’s obvious to say that too much coffee would reverse all of the beneficial factors. Some studies obviously need further testing and validation; however, the preliminary results show that coffee is not as bad as we all once thought. So, if you’re feeling like you need a little pick-me-up when you’re starting to lag during your revision, go and make yourself a cup coffee. Don’t reach for those energy drinks and tablets, as those really are devils in disguise!