The internet is awash with information about the effects of caffeine, especially for those of us who consume it on a daily basis. According to several studies, regular caffeine consumption has various effects on the hormones in the human body.
But can caffeine help you if you have low levels of some important hormones in the human body?
The answer is that while caffeine can be useful in preventing deficiencies in hormones such as testosterone, it cannot be a treatment or cure if a severe deficiency is already present.
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Caffeine and hormones
Caffeine is an alkaloid that has a stimulating effect on the central nervous system. So, caffeine binds to its receptors in the brain and at the same time inhibits adenosine. Adenosine is a nucleotide that is responsible, among other things, for “braking” in the nervous system.
So, while adenosine makes you sleepy, relaxed and calm, caffeine gives you energy and helps you focus on the tasks at hand.
This alkaloid also has multiple effects on the body and several studies suggest that it can even alter the production of certain hormones that are very important for the functioning of our body.
Below we will look at a group of hormones that several scientific studies have shown are affected by caffeine consumption.
Caffeine and estrogen
According to a study published in 2012, caffeine can not only help maintain testosterone levels in men, but it can also lower estrogen levels. Conversely, frequent consumption of the alkaloid appears to increase estrogen levels in women.
This is because the way caffeine affects hormone levels depends on several factors. So, in women, the increase or decrease in estrogen levels could be determined by ethnicity, at least that’s the conclusion of another study.
This study involved several women, white, black and Asian, who consumed an average of 200 mg of caffeine per day, which is equivalent to two cups of coffee.
Results of the study
The same amount of caffeine produced different results for each ethnic group, with both Asian and black women seeing increases in estrogen levels.
In white women, on the other hand, there was a slight drop in hormone levels in the blood. However, the researchers found that women who consumed more than one cup of soda or green tea per day saw an increase in estrogen levels.
However, it should be noted that the fluctuations in estrogen levels did not affect the health of the participants.
So, what is estrogen?
Estrogen is the quintessential female hormone and is produced in the ovaries, although it is also found in men (albeit in smaller proportions).
This hormone is responsible for the development of secondary sex characteristics such as: e.g.:
- The development of the breasts
- The growth of pubic hair
- Increased bone density
- The onset of the menstrual cycle
- Maturation of the vagina, uterus, endometrium and fallopian tubes
In addition, estrogen affects sexual desire as well as skin health as it is involved in collagen formation.
Caffeine and testosterone
Several studies have concluded that frequent coffee consumption appears to help keep testosterone levels within a normal range. This leads to better performance in sports.
Recent research into the health benefits of coffee has also suggested that there may be a link between caffeine consumption and improved athletic performance.
Normal testosterone levels lead to increased muscle strength and vitality, at least in middle-aged men.
So, what is testosterone?
Testosterone is the main male sex hormone and is produced in the testicles and to a lesser extent in the adrenal glands.
So, this hormone is busy with the production of male traits, such as:
- Facial hair
- Pubic hair
- Sperm production
- Bone and muscle growth
- Development of the penis
However, testosterone is also present in the female body as this hormone is involved in the creation of sexual desire in both men and women.
Testosterone also regulates fat distribution in the male body and is involved in the production of red blood cells, among other things.
Today, many men suffer from low testosterone, which is due to several factors including middle age, a sedentary lifestyle and high levels of stress.
Certain diseases such as testicular infections, chemotherapy or taking anabolic steroids can also lead to a significant drop in testosterone.
Therefore, low testosterone levels that last for a long period of time (months or years) can cause various health complications such as: e.g.:
- Decreased sex drive
- Erectile dysfunction
- Low sperm count
- Decreasing muscle mass
- Decreased bone density
- Weight gain
What does science say about this?
The study mentioned above concluded that men who consume caffeinated beverages like coffee or tea are more likely to have high levels of testosterone.
To arrive at these conclusions, research was conducted over a period of 8 weeks in which the participants were divided into two control groups.
The participants in the first group then drank decaffeinated coffee, while the second group drank regular coffee (with caffeine).
The testosterone levels were then measured in the participants after four weeks. It was found that the participants in the group that drank traditional coffee experienced a significant increase in testosterone levels.
It was also found that the amount of total and free estradiol in their bodies was reduced, which appears to be related to reduced activity of the enzyme aromatase.
Simply put, this means that caffeine can inhibit the action of the enzyme aromatase, which is responsible for converting testosterone into the female hormone estradiol.
Because aromatase is inhibited, testosterone levels therefore remain normal.
While the results of this research are significant and pave the way for further studies on the subject, one thing should be clear.
In no case has caffeine consumption proven to be a good strategy for treating low testosterone. Rather, the conclusion is that caffeine may be a factor in maintaining normal testosterone levels.
Men who are already showing symptoms of testosterone deficiency should therefore seek the advice of a doctor and under no circumstances should they self-medicate.
Caffeine and cortisol
Cortisol, also known as the stress hormone, is a substance we need to “get out of bed”. This hormone, produced by the adrenal glands, is most concentrated in the morning hours when we normally wake up.
So, when you drink caffeinated beverages, the effects of cortisol in the body can be increased, making you feel more energetic and alert.
However, people who drink coffee or tea daily tend to develop a tolerance to caffeine, so after a while they don’t feel that “double boost” anymore.
However, it is not yet clear at what level cortisol rises after caffeine consumption.
What is cortisol used for?
Cortisol’s primary function in our bodies is to control the “fight-or-fly” response, which is the way we respond to threats or uncomfortable situations.
When faced with a stressful situation, cortisol activates our alertness system mediated by adrenaline.
So, if we need to flee from somewhere, for example, we have the energy to fly away, or we adopt a “fight or flight” posture.
Other important functions of cortisol in our body are:
- generating an increase in energy
- Sleep cycle control (in other words: wake up)
- Increase in available blood sugar levels (if we have to run or fight it is better if we have energy available and ready to use it)
Caffeine and adrenaline
As previously mentioned, adrenaline along with cortisol is involved in the “fight or flight” response. However, the effects of adrenaline are short-lived, while the effects of cortisol last longer.
So far it is known that caffeine consumption can increase adrenaline levels in people who drink coffee or tea sporadically.
However, individuals who are used to consuming caffeine on a daily basis do not have elevated levels of adrenaline because they have already developed some kind of tolerance.
Functions of adrenaline
Adrenaline, or epinephrine, is another hormone produced by the adrenal glands that is released in situations of stress, alarm, and anxiety. Contrary to what one might imagine, the release of adrenaline can induce a feeling of “exhilaration”.
In fact, the sensation produced by norepinephrine is so powerful that many people love to feel it, or why do you think some people love horror movies or high-risk sports?
So this hormone stimulates circulation, causing blood pressure to rise, while at the same time dilating the bronchi, allowing air to flow more easily through the lungs.
In addition, adrenaline stimulates the release of dopamine (one of the happy hormones) in our brain, so that we feel a kind of euphoria when these two substances are released from our body.
Caffeine and dopamine
So far, there is no evidence that caffeine consumption affects dopamine levels in the body. However, it is believed that caffeine may slow down the process of dopamine elimination.
In other words, being happy and drinking a cup of coffee won’t make you happier, but it will help keep the feeling of euphoria longer.
In fact, caffeine is addictive because we associate happiness with a cup of our favorite beverage.
That’s why we always want more of it.
We’ve seen that caffeine consumption appears to have a positive effect on several of the most important hormones in our bodies.
However, it is worth noting that there is currently no evidence that caffeine alone can cause a significant increase in any hormone.
Therefore, caffeine consumption should not be excessive, as caffeine doses in excess of 400 mg per day (about 4 cups) can produce a number of uncomfortable or even serious side effects in some people.
So, remember to always consult your family doctor if you have any health problems.