“Don’t talk to me before I’ve had my coffee.” In addition to being good advice from many workers, variations on that statement are probably keeping the novelty mug business afloat. There’s just one problem: at least one study indicates that caffeine itself is the problem, and consuming it might actually tank productivity instead of fueling it.
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“New research from Johns Hopkins Medical School shows that performance increases due to caffeine intake are the result of caffeine drinkers experiencing a short-term reversal of caffeine withdrawal,” writes Dr. Travis Bradberry at LinkedIn. “By controlling for caffeine use in study participants, John Hopkins researchers found that caffeine-related performance improvement is nonexistent without caffeine withdrawal. In essence, coming off caffeine reduces your cognitive performance and has a negative impact on your mood. The only way to get back to normal is to drink caffeine, and when you do drink it, you feel like it’s taking you to new heights. In reality, the caffeine is just taking your performance back to normal for a short period.”
Scientists have been largely split on caffeine for years: research on the subject from Johns Hopkins alone produces such contradictory studies as Post-Study Caffeine Administration Enhances Memory Consolidation in Humans and Caffeine Use Disorder: A Comprehensive Review and Research Agenda.
Other research has pointed to positive effects from drinking caffeine, including possibly preventing liver disease, heart disease, and Parkinson’s. On the other hand, it’s a stimulant, and boosts adrenaline and blood pressure — not a good idea if you already have health concerns in those areas.
The bottom line is that caffeine is a drug, and while researchers debate whether it’s a boon to mankind or an obstacle to success, individuals will have to make up their own minds about whether it’s helping or harming them.
In the meantime, if you absolutely can’t function without your morning coffee, it might be time to consider whether phasing out caffeine is a worthwhile experiment. You might just find that you’re sharper and more alert without it.
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