Does Coffee Make You Smarter?

Edited and published by Wellness Monster Stacie

It seems that every day we find a new headline stating the benefits and drawbacks of consuming coffee. Currently, specialists believe that coffee can boost metabolism, give you an extra push during physical performance and can supply you with a number of antioxidants. There are other studies that show that coffee can help prevent liver cirrhosis and the dark beverage might even help one from developing Type 2 Diabetes or Alzheimer’s. But what about making you smarter? Can drinking a cup of Joe or two really make you more intelligent? Maybe, but probably not in way we would prefer. (

Brain Work 101

brain-workDeep within the brain there is a hubbub of activity with different neurochemicals bouncing back and forth. One of those neurochemicals is adenosine which does a lot of work including transferring energy, suppressing arousal, regulating blood flow and other tasks helping to provide efficient cardiovascular function. That includes making you sleepy. As the day goes on, adenosine levels will rise in the brain which cues your body that it’s time to take a rest. However, when you add coffee to the mix, the caffeine will actually block some adenosine and can trick your brain that you’re not sleepy.

According to Neda Stoll of Glossy Cover, when you block adenosine, you will “enhance the sensitivity of your brain cells to other neurotransmitters” and “your brain becomes more sensitive to the presence of norepinephrine and dopamine, two of the chemicals that help you to feel alert, awake, and active. It also increases neuronal firing in the brain cells, speeding up the transfer of electrical energy between cells. In layman’s terms, this means ‘more efficient brain function.’”

So, by blocking adenosine, you’ll (temporarily) have better short-term memory and recall, improved focus and concentration, less mental and physical fatigue and faster reaction times. That doesn’t necessarily mean that it will make you smarter, but it can give you some extra help you learn more.

Another chemical in the brain is called dopamine which many believe is a key component in one’s happiness. It is also pretty important when it comes to mental health as it can encourage motivation, desire and can affect your motor function as well. Caffeine has been shown to stimulate the production of dopamine which is a good thing. A lack of dopamine has been linked to some disorders like Parkinson’s disease and schizophrenia.

Chocolate Makes Everything Better

coffee-chocolateCoffee drinkers who prefer mochas to vanilla lattes might also have an extra advantage when it comes to test days at school. A study from the University of Georgia compared the “mental energy” effects that come from four different types of hot drinks. One had cocoa, one had caffeine, one had a combination of the two and the fourth was a placebo. During the study, each of the participants consumed their beverage, and then they were tasked with completing a “mental energy test.” Those who drank the beverage with cocoa gave quicker response rates and those who had the drink with both cocoa and caffeine had better accuracy than just the cocoa drinkers.

As a bonus, the researchers found that the cocoa mixture actually lessened the “anxiety-producing effects” of caffeine. It was also found that those who consumed cocoa with the caffeine were less angry than those who had caffeine only.

“Cocoa increases cerebral blood flow, which increases cognition and attention. Caffeine alone can increase anxiety,” study author Ali Boolani told Global News. “This particular project found that cocoa lessens caffeine’s anxiety-producing effects — a good reason to drink mocha lattes.”

The Dark Side of Coffee

Of course, there are some downsides if you drink too much coffee. For one, caffeine can keep you buzzing for a long time, so drinking it later in the day could keep you up late at night preventing you from sleeping well. And then there is the problem with acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is a chemical that helps transfer messages to different parts of your nervous system. At night, levels of acetylcholine need to be lowered.

“This shutting down means that your body can form chemical links that are required to remember the words in your vocabulary,” says Coffee Abode. “But, caffeine can block this sedative from working correctly meaning that the levels of acetylcholine never drop to the levels that they should.” (

Just as caffeine can block adenosine, it can also block acetylcholine meaning that some chemical links can’t be formed and therefore, your brain will have trouble remembering what you learned earlier in the day. So, it is reasonable to suggest that taking a moderate amount of caffeine can help you learn more but too much can actually make it more difficult to remember everything new that you learned!

Other downsides may include an increased irritability, anxiety and sleep loss. Doctors recommend keeping your coffee consumption to about 400 milligrams per day which is about four cups.

Bulletproof Coffee to the Rescue…or Not

bulletproof-coffeeWhile many will keep the morning ritual of a good cup of coffee regardless of the outcome, some do complain of feeling jittery or feeling heart-thumping sensations. Dave Asprey, creator of the Bulletproof Coffee says that he has a remedy for that and his coffee can make you even smarter than an ordinary cup of Joe can. His concoction is a mix of toxin-free coffee, unsalted grass-fed butter and coconut oil extract, and he says that one cup will give one up to six hours of energy. Not only that, but it can replace one’s breakfast, burn off fat and increase one’s IQ. He says that his new beverage helped him to lose 100 pounds sans exercising and boosted his IQ by 20 points. Asprey claims that the butter in the coffee give the “benefits of healthy milk fat with none of the damaging denatured casein proteins found in cream.”

However, some doctors disagree with Asprey’s reasoning including Kris Gunnars, BSc who said on that bulletproof coffee was not a good substitute for a healthy breakfast, that the beverage had too much saturated fat and it caused some people to have dramatically elevated cholesterol levels after consuming it. As for the IQ raising, the jury is still out on that.


Image Credits:

Coffee cup with brain on foam. Refreshing concept. [ID 47491368 © Andreykuzmin |]

World Mental Health Day. Silhouette of the head of man and brain. Lights showing the work of the brain. [ID 125808505 © Julia Faranchuk |]

Chocolate cake, jug milk, pieces of sugar and coffee cup. [ID 85697251 © Drugoy66 |]

Bulletproof coffee. Milk, coconut. [ID 69719324 © Przemyslaw Ceglarek |]