Coffee even has an effect on the same brain ‘circuits’ that cause the munchies, researchers have said.
Coffee affects the metabolism of neurotransmitters linked to cannabis, Northwestern researchers found.
Neurotransmitters related to the ‘endocannabinoid’ system – the same ones affected by cannabis – decreased after drinking four to eight cups of coffee in a day.
It’s the exact opposite of what occurs after someone uses cannabis.
Neurotransmitters are chemicals that deliver messages between nerve cells.
‘These are entirely new pathways by which coffee might affect health,’ said lead author Marilyn Cornelis, assistant professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
Blood metabolites of the endocannabinoid system decreased with coffee consumption, particularly with eight cups per day, the study found.
Cannabinoids are the chemicals that give the cannabis plant its medical and recreational properties.
The body also naturally produces endocannabinoids, which mimic cannabinoid activity.
Some endocannabinoids decrease in the presence of chronic stress.
‘The increased coffee consumption over the two-month span of the trial may have created enough stress to trigger a decrease in metabolites in this system,’ she said. ‘It could be our bodies’ adaptation to try to get stress levels back to equilibrium.’
The endocannabinoid system also regulates a wide range of functions: cognition, blood pressure, immunity, addiction, sleep, appetite, energy and glucose metabolism.
‘The endocannabinoid pathways might impact eating behaviors,’ suggested Cornelis, ‘the classic case being the link between cannabis use and the munchies.’
Coffee also has been linked to aiding weight management and reducing risk of type 2 diabetes.
‘This is often thought to be due to caffeine’s ability to boost fat metabolism or the glucose-regulating effects of polyphenols (plant-derived chemicals),’ Cornelis said.
‘Our new findings linking coffee to endocannabinoids offer alternative explanations worthy of further study.’
It’s not known if caffeine or other substances in coffee trigger the change in metabolites.