What does coffee REALLY do to your body?

Your next cup of coffee could affect your body and brain for up to 24 hours. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? And what, beyond keeping us awake, does it actually do?

Nutritional consultant Dr. Owen Bain spoke to The Telegraph about the changes triggered by coffee, and some of them are a huge surprise. How many of these coffee facts did you know?

It improves your eyesight

This is one of the lesser-known benefits of caffeine. As it releases adrenaline, it encourages your body to go into a protective and alert state. This will cause the pupils to dilate, which can often result in better vision.

It improves your memory

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You won’t just have sharper eyesight; you’ll also have a sharper mind. The raise in alertness will encourage the brain to concentrate on details. While the initial energy spike is relatively shortlived, this increase in memory can last up to 24 hours.

Better yet, recent studies have also raised a strong possibility that this small cognitive improvement can decrease your long-term risks of developing dementia.

It speeds up digestion

One of the first-felt effects of caffeine is not as bad as you might think. Within just a few minutes of starting, you will probably want to go to the toilet.

While this isn’t necessarily comfortable, The Telegraph reports that this is a perfectly healthy response to have – if you’ve had it after food. By raising the levels of acid in our stomach, and thus triggering the digestive process, it keeps our body processing food in a smooth, healthy way.

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However, if you drink on an empty stomach, it can irritate the lining of the stomach, less pleasant feelings of heartburn, bloatedness and discomfort.

Funnily enough, even decaf coffee can have this affect on drinkers; researchers suspect an ingredient other than caffeine is to blame.

It helps you ignore tiredness

Coffee doesn’t technically boost your energy – it simply makes it easier for you to ignore that you’re tired. As such, it helps to time your coffee accordingly.

When you wake up, your body will get a boost of cortisol – the natural hormone that helps us wake up. Coffee taken first thing in the morning is therefore less effective.

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Dr Bain told The Telegraph it was smartest to hold off until roughly one hour after getting up, when your cortisol levels begin to drop. However, he also warns that this effect will fade after around three hours, so if you begin the day tired, you’ll soon be feeling tired again.

It helps you breathe

Caffeine will open up your lungs, making breathing easier. In fact, it’s very similar to theophylline, the drug given to those with respiratory issues. 

It raises your blood pressure

Coffee gets the heart racing. While this generally only increases blood pressure by a fraction, this could be a concern to those seeking treatment or prevention for heart disease or high blood pressure.

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This is mainly an issue with those who don’t drink coffee regularly, or those who drink more than 2-3 cups a day.

It confuses your body clock

Coffee delays the release of melatonin, the hormone that helps you sleep. As your body relies on these changing levels to decide when it’s best to sleep and wake up, a coffee too late in the day can confuse this process, effectively resetting the body’s clock.

Are you a coffee drinker? Do these facts change your opinion on caffeine? Share your thoughts in the comments below!