Pop quiz: who gets a bigger mental boost from caffeine?
The answer? Drum roll, please…
A. Men. According to new research from the University of Barcelona, men feel more alert-more quickly-than women do after drinking a caffeinated beverage. In the study, participants sipped a caffeinated espresso (do you know the best coffees to drink?), then rated how alert they felt 10, 20 and 30 minutes later. Men reported feeling less drowsy after only 10 minutes and sustained the mental boost for the entire half hour. Women got a "kick" from the espresso, too, but rated it weaker than the men did. (Don't drink coffee? Find out how your "energy" drink stacks up against coffee.)
Rest assured, ladies: I too was annoyed that men get the better end of the deal. But don't forget that coffee does offer some health perks-it contains soluble fiber and antioxidants and may lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Iced coffee anyone?
And here's where we reap the benefits: as it turns out, just anticipating the stimulating effects of caffeine may be enough-particularly for women-to feel them. Using the same methods, researchers also looked at the mental effects of decaffeinated coffee. Ten minutes after drinking a cup of decaf, women reported feeling significantly more alert. The men reported only a slight mental boost. "Women may be more likely than men to experience a placebo response [to caffeine]," says Ana Adan, Ph.D., lead author and research head of the Psychopharmacology and Drug Dependence Group at the University of Barcelona.
I don't plan to trade in my morning caffeinated cup of joe for decaf, but I will remember that a decaffeinated iced coffee after lunch might give me enough of a boost to get through an afternoon meeting-and not keep me up when it's time to go to bed.
By Brierley Wright, M.S., R.D.
Brierley's interest in nutrition and food come together in her position as an associate editor at EatingWell. Brierley holds a master's degree in Nutrition Communication from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. A Registered Dietitian, she completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Vermont.
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