Have you ever walked passed a coffee shop and as soon as you picked up the whiff of coffee, you perked up ?
Typically the smell triggers an overwhelming desire to stop and enjoy a cup of java. The good news is that you might not actually need to drink the coffee to wake-up the brain.
There is more to coffee than caffeine
The wake you up to go-go property of coffee is usually attributed to caffeine but coffee includes various vitamins and minerals, as well as healthy doses of antioxidants.
In addition to the dozens of chemicals packaged in a steaming mug of coffee, the “smell” of coffee includes 900 different volatile chemicals – some of these are also pharmacologically active.
Not too much is really known about the pharmacology of smell, but the olfactory nerves run directly into the brain, so olfactory stimulation carries messages into your brain really quickly. Think how quickly bad smells can make you gag.
Tired (stressed) rats are buzzed by coffee smell
A team of international researchers treated normal and sleep deprived rats, to expensive Colombian coffee. The aroma of freshly ground coffee beans was allowed to waft through their cages, which were placed in slit drafts, to ensure adequate air circulation.
Experiments in the rats showed that the volatile chemicals in the coffee, were able to alter the expression of more than a dozen genes in the rats’ brains. Some genes were turned on, a few were turned off (the phenomenon of switching genes on and off is called epigenetics).
Not going to overwhelm you with their names (gene names read pretty close to hieroglyphics). But the genes that are switched on/off are involved in
- Protecting against oxidation
- Virulence (i.e. switching you on so that you are paying attention)
- Cellular communication and
- Energy metabolism
Overall, the coffee was able to get the brain producing chemicals that could help handle stress.
Try a little coffee aromatherapy
Human olfactory capabilities are not in the same league as a rat, so there is no guarantee that as a human inhaling coffee bouquets, you will manage to trigger such a profound response. But, the smell of coffee is certainly not offensive, so switch on the coffee machine and brew up a cup.
Savour the aroma.
If you’re up to it, enjoy the liquid package of chemicals.
If it is a little late and you don’t want to have a rough night tossing and turning, due to caffeine induced insomnia, then get a brain lift, by relishing the airborne chemical package.Effects of Coffee Bean Aroma on the Rat Brain Stressed by Sleep Deprivation: A Selected Transcript- and 2D Gel-Based Proteome Analysis. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry (2008) 56(12):4665-4673. Han-Seok Seo et al.
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