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Essential Science: Where coffee works like cannabis

The deeper understanding as to the effects of coffee on the body comes from Northwestern Medicine, which is run jointly between Northwestern Memorial HealthCare and the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Here researchers found that coffee alters far more metabolites in the blood than had hitherto been realized.

Metabolites are chemicals in the blood, and they have variety of functions various functions, including structure, signaling, stimulatory and inhibitory effects on enzymes. Metabolites also have catalytic activity of their own and play a role with defense, and interactions with other organisms. Metabolites also change after a person has eaten food or drunk a liquid.

With the new research, the scientists looked at the neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) related to the endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system is a biological system made up of endocannabinoids. These are neurotransmitters that bind to cannabinoid receptors and cannabinoid receptor proteins which are expressed throughout the central nervous system (including the brain).

The endocannabinoid system regulates several physiological and cognitive processes like appetite, pain-sensation, and mood; it also mediates the pharmacological effects of cannabis. Cannabis contains cannabinoids. These are chemicals that give the cannabis plant medical.

A cannabis plant.

A cannabis plant.
Michael Fischer (cc) via Pexels

The research showed that if a person drinks four to eight cups of coffee in a day an opposite effect of what occurs after someone uses cannabis occurs. Neurotransmitters are the chemicals that deliver messages between nerve cells.

It was also found, through drinking coffee, that some metabolites were linked to the androsteroid system. These metabolites increased following drinking four to eight cups of coffee in per day. This raises the possibility that coffee could facilitate the excretion or elimination of steroids.

This is important give that the steroid pathway is a current topic of medical focus for cancer treatment. Thus coffee, or substances extracted from coffee, could have some type of effect on the disease.

The research was conducted in Finland. The study found that people, under a controlled study, who abstained from coffee for one month, then consumed four cups a day for the second month, followed by eight cups a day for the third month, saw metabolic changes in their blood. Here blood metabolites of the endocannabinoid system decreased with coffee consumption, with the rate of decreasing occurring as the level of coffee consumption increased.

Commenting on the research, principal researcher Professor Marilyn Cornelis told Laboratory Manager magazine: “These are entirely new pathways by which coffee might affect health…Now we want to delve deeper and study how these changes affect the body.”

The research has been published in the Journal of Internal Medicine. The research paper is titled “Metabolomic response to coffee consumption: application to a three‐stage clinical trial.” This opens up new research possibilities.

Essential Science

A handful of multivitamins

A handful of multivitamins

This article is part of Digital Journal’s regular Essential Science columns. Each week Tim Sandle explores a topical and important scientific issue. Last week we looked at research that suggested vitamin pills probably are of no benefit and that a healthy diet is the best way for people to get the nutrients they need.

The week before we looked at the very modern physiological issue of ‘text neck’. Here Spinal surgeon Dr. Ken Hansraj has defined postural implications for humanity. In newly published research he describes the impact of text neck, backpack forces, and gender specific data on belly size, along with breast forces, on the spine.

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Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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