Caffeine Buzz Without Actually Drinking Coffee? It Is Possible, Says Study

NDTV Food Desk (with inputs from ANI)  |  Updated: April 22, 2019 11:53 IST

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Caffeine Buzz Without Actually Drinking Coffee? It Is Possible, Says Study

Coffee lovers, here's something that may delight you. According to a latest study, the placebo effect of coffee may heighten arousal, ambition and focus in regular drinkers without them actually consuming the beverage. For the study, the researchers tried to explore the association between coffee and arousal to see if the brain's exposure to stimuli is able to deliver similar cognitive benefits as a caffeine buzz.

 "As long as individuals see a connection between coffee and arousal, whatever its origin may be, mere exposure to coffee-related cues might trigger arousal in and of themselves without ingesting any form of caffeine," said Eugene Chan, lead researcher of the study, published in the Journal of Consciousness and Cognition.

The researchers revealed, that merely smelling coffee could do the trick. They explained that smelling coffee gives rise to the beverage's psychoactive, arousing effects. This occurs because the brains of regular coffee drinkers are conditioned to respond to coffee in certain ways, as per the prominent Pavlov's dog theory.

"So, walking past your favourite cafe, smelling the odours of coffee grounds, or even witnessing coffee-related cues in the form of advertising can trigger the chemical receptors in our body enough for us to obtain the same arousal sensations without consumption," Chain explained.

For the study, the scientists studied 871 participants from Western and Eastern cultures. They exposed the participants to coffee and tea-related cues across four separate experiments designed to make them think of the substance without actually taking it in.

As part of one task, participants had to think of advertising slogans for coffee or tea. In another task, they had to mock-up news stories about the health benefits of drinking coffee or tea. The researchers monitored their arousal levels and heart rates throughout all these tasks.

The premise of the study was based on a psychological effect called 'mental construal'. It determines how people think and process information, if they focus on larger picture or the narrow details also play their part.

The cognitive-altering effects of coffee were more prevalent in participants from Western countries, where coffee is more popular and has connotations related to energy, focus, and ambition, compared to those from Eastern countries. Coffee was also associated with greater arousal than tea.

"Our research can offer intriguing implications, as it relies not on physiology but rather psychological associations to change our cognitive patterns," Chan asserted.

According to the researchers, this study could even help to explain how drinking decaffeinated coffee can produce faster reaction times on tasks. Perhaps, the mental association between coffee and arousal is so strong that it can produce cognitive changes even where there's no caffeine ingestion physiologically.

"This adds to the growing amount of literature documenting that the foods we eat and the beverages we drink do more than simply provide nutrition or pleasure - mere exposure to, or reminders of them, affect how we think," Chan concluded.




 

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