Boost Your Brain? Caffeine & Blood Flow Explained

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Caffeine consumption could lead to potential risks such as vasoconstriction, which means narrowing blood vessels and thus restricting blood flow to the brain. Caffeine use reduces cerebral blood flow by an average of 27%. It’s not harmful unless and until you keep your caffeine intake below the average consumption dose recommended by the FDA, which means 2-4 cups of coffee daily. It starts harming your brain when you have a higher consumption of coffee dosage daily.

Caffeine is a must-have for some of us. We hardly feel like ourselves if we don’t have our cup of joe each day.

There’s nothing we don’t like about coffee, be it the sweet aroma, the taste, or how it makes us feel so alive!

Even though it makes us feel alive, helping us concentrate more on the task in front of us, coffee has numerous effects on our brains.

This effect differs based on how much caffeine you consume each day.

To this day, we don’t fully understand the full effects of caffeine on the human brain, but specific targets of actions of caffeine in the brain and nerves outside the brain are known.

Let’s see if caffeine intake increases or decreases blood flow to our brain and the related pros and cons of it on our body.

How does caffeine affect our brains?

Caffeine is a staple for more than half of American citizens. Over nine in ten Americans consume caffeine daily.

Even if not having a cup of coffee, caffeine is found in several beverages, including soft drinks and energy drinks.

A woman is holding a cup of black coffee that she's about to drink

Consuming caffeine has several impacts on our brains.

Not only on the memory performance but an added risk of related cognitive decline, this psychoactive substance alters how our brain functions in small ways.

When it comes to looking at the blood flow and how consuming caffeine affects the blood flow to our brain, it’s pretty fascinating.

Overall, caffeine actually restricts blood flow to our brains, but it’s not harmful to our brains to experience this. So let’s see how this proves to be beneficial.

What are the benefits of decreasing blood flow to the brain?

Caffeine has vasoconstrictive properties, meaning that blood vessels narrow to restrict blood flow.

A study published in Nature’s Scientific Reports looks at this fact at how caffeine restricts blood flow to the brain, which is beneficial to us, and explains the benefit to be ‘resting brain entropy’ or BEN.

Despite the restricted blood flow, consuming caffeine stimulates individual brain regions.

The stimulating effects are uneven. But it creates a chaotic balance of energy when the stimulant is in full force.

The greater unevenness in stimulation throughout the brain implies a higher entropy.

According to this study’s researchers, caffeine causes BEN to increase in a significant portion of the cerebral cortex, with the highest increase in the lateral prefrontal cortex, the DMN, the visual cortex, and the motor network.

A woman is happy as she's sitting by the beach, enjoying the breeze and drinking a cup of coffee

They also found that caffeine-induced BEN increase varied across the brain, with a relatively larger BEN increase in the prefrontal cortex, lateral striatum, visual cortex, and motor area.

The distribution may result from caffeine effects on cognition since caffeine has the strongest impact on attention, vigilance, and action/motion function, mainly subserved by the aforementioned brain regions.

Amongst all these benefits, it’s clear that drinking coffee doesn’t restrict your blood flow too much, and whatever amount is restricted isn’t proven to harm you.

Only in rare cases when the amount of coffee is higher than the average intake of more than 400 milligrams dose of caffeine per day and continuing to do so will eventually affect you.

📌 400 mg equals about four to five cups of coffee per day. If you’re consuming caffeine more than this amount regularly, it could lead to severe blood restriction and cause you harm.

How can you increase blood flow to your brain?

Loving coffee shouldn’t be a sin, but how do you ensure you don’t suffer from a higher chance of getting restricted blood flow to your brain?

The answer is simple, which includes drinking less coffee. Limiting your coffee intake to less than 400 mg could allow you to drink coffee without suffering severe consequences.

Not just coffee, but also look into the beverages you’re drinking, most being caffeinated drinks.

You can regulate your total caffeine intake by looking at each and everything you’re consuming so you don’t go overboard.

Is it better to drink decaf?

For a coffee to be considered decaf, it must have at least 97.5% caffeine removed for it to be known as decaffeinated.

If you’re worried about restricted blood flow to the brain, you should opt for decaf coffees.

A group of friends are enjoying drinking decaf cappuccino together

Drinking too much caffeine daily has other disadvantages and can cause the following issues:

  • Insomnia
  • Jitters
  • Anxiousness
  • Fast heart rate
  • Upset stomach
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • A feeling of unhappiness

So, it’s better to cut your caffeine and do it gradually; removing it at once can have worse effects on your body.

A sudden withdrawal leads to headaches, anxiety, and nervousness.

Caffeine is an addictive substance, so if your body is hooked on a higher dosage, the withdrawal symptoms could be dangerous.

Slowly allow yourself to cut back on it or refer to a doctor to handle the situation better.

FAQs

Does caffeine increase blood flow?

In most parts of the body, caffeine acts as a vasodilator by stimulating the release of nitric oxide. This means it widens the blood vessels to increase blood flow and improve circulation.

However, in the brain, caffeine does the exact opposite. The blood vessels narrow, and blood flow decreases. This is helpful when you’re having headaches.

The headache pain is caused when the brain’s blood vessels contact sensitive nerves right next to the vessels.

But caffeine causes the blood vessels to contract, breaking contact with the nerves and easing headache pain.

But it could be bad for those suffering from migraines.

What drink increases blood flow?

Ginger tea helps increase the blood flow or improves it by widening the blood vessels and enhancing the blood flow.

What does caffeine do to the brain?

Drinking caffeine increases brain activity and the nervous system. It also increases the circulation of chemicals such as cortisol and adrenaline in the body.

Is caffeine good or bad for the brain?

Caffeine could prove to be good or bad for the brain depending on various factors such as the quantity of caffeine consumed each day for short-term or long-term, age, and caffeine tolerance.

It can help with cases of depression and anxiety, and other medical conditions by improving mood, but only if consumed in a moderate amount.

Lifelong consumption has been associated with preventing cognitive decline and reducing the risk of developing stroke, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.

What brain functions are affected by caffeine?

Caffeine helps us feel alert and makes us more focused on tasks. It increases energy metabolism throughout the brain but also decreases cerebral blood flow.

Caffeine activates noradrenaline neurons and seems to affect the local release of dopamine.

How does caffeine affect your heart?

Caffeine enters the bloodstream from the stomach and small intestine and then begins to stimulate your central nervous system.

The receptors in the cells within your heart are stimulated by caffeine, increasing your heart rate.

As the heart beats faster, your blood flow speeds up too. This increase in heart rate from caffeine can happen as soon as 15 minutes and takes about 6 hours to completely wear off.

Does caffeine increase blood flow to the kidneys?

Drinking about 3-4 cups of coffee each day actually helps your kidneys.

By drinking coffee, the caffeine increases your heart rate and expands your blood vessel diameter, regulating blood flow throughout the body.

The increase in blood flow helps get toxins and metabolites filtered out of your blood through your kidneys faster.

What are the risks of excessive caffeine consumption on brain health?

When you’re consuming caffeine in access which means more than 1 to 1.5 g/day can cause caffeine poisoning.

This includes symptoms such as anxiety, agitation, insomnia, gastrointestinal disorders, tremors, and mental disorders.

In certain cases, it also causes death, depending on caffeine resistance and the rate of caffeine metabolism.

Does caffeine slow brain function?

Caffeine consumption doesn’t slow down your brain but increases brain activity instead.

It prevents adenosine from slowing down neural activity. Caffeine promotes CNS stimulation, making you feel alert, and so it boosts your brain function.

How does caffeine affect brain development?

Caffeine, when consumed by children from ages 2 to 12, could lead to a significant change in brain development.

Caffeine is also present in beverages like soft and energy drinks, and children drinking soft drinks daily could consume as much caffeine as adults.

It could lead to reduced vocabulary comprehension, cognitive flexibility, processing speed, working memory, and episodic memory.

References

  • https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/spilling-beans-how-much-caffeine-too-much#:~:text=For%20healthy%20adults%2C%20the%20FDA,it%20(break%20it%20down).
  • https://www.insider.com/what-caffeine-does-to-your-brain-and-body-2018-7
  • https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-018-21008-6#Fig3
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2748160/
  • https://brainmd.com/blog/is-caffeine-bad-for-you/
  • https://www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/speaking-of-health/does-caffeine-treat-or-trigger-headaches

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Saumya Malik
I'm an ardent follower of everything good for the health and wellness of body and mind. I am passionate about providing effective solutions to general health and mental well-being issues and wants to help people achieve the same. When I'm not writing, you can find me curled up with a good book in a corner or cooking as a form of good mental therapy.

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