It’s well known that a morning cup of joe jolts you awake. But scientists have discovered coffee affects your metabolism in dozens of other ways, including your metabolism of steroids and the neurotransmitters typically linked to cannabis, reports a new study from Northwestern Medicine.
In a study of coffee consumption published in the Journal of Internal Medicine, Northwestern scientists were surprised to discover coffee changed many more metabolites in the blood than previously known. Metabolites are chemicals in the blood that change after we eat and drink or for a variety of other reasons.
The neurotransmitters related to the endocannabinoid system — the same ones affected by cannabis — decreased after drinking four to eight cups of coffee in a day. That’s the opposite of what occurs after someone uses cannabis. Neurotransmitters are the chemicals that deliver messages between nerve cells.
Cannabinoids are the chemicals that give the cannabis plant its medical and recreational properties. The body also naturally produces endocannabinoids, which mimic cannabinoid activity.
In addition, certain metabolites related to the androsteroid system increased after drinking four to eight cups of coffee in a day, which suggests coffee might facilitate the excretion or elimination of steroids. Because the steroid pathway is a focus for certain diseases including cancers, coffee may have an effect on these diseases as well.
“These are entirely new pathways by which coffee might affect health,” said lead author Dr. Marilyn Cornelis, assistant professor of preventive medicine in the division of nutrition. “Now we want to delve deeper and study how these changes affect the body.”
Little is known about how coffee directly impacts health. In the new study, scientists applied advanced technology that enabled them to measure hundreds of metabolites in human blood samples from a coffee trial for the first time. The study generates new hypotheses about coffee’s link to health and new directions for coffee research.