I came across an interesting paper the other day that I figured would be relevant to most of us in the healthcare field! After all, it’s pretty rare to find doctors who aren’t drinking a cup of coffee in the morning during rounds! This study took 107 people and gave them decaffeinated coffee that was supplemented with 200 mg of caffeine or an equivalent amount of bitter quinine. Both of these groups had sugar added to the drinks as part of the sensory test.
The findings? Well, those who had the caffeinated beverage rated it as less sweet compared to the group without the caffeine. The researchers concluded that coffee modulates our taste receptors–a mechanism related to caffeine’s antagonist effect on adenosine receptors (a throwback to biochemistry!).
There was a second aspect to this study. The authors had the participants rate their levels of alertness and to estimate how much caffeine in the beverage. Interestingly enough, both groups rated the same increase in alertness, and participants failed to predict correctly whether they had the caffeinated or decaffeinated beverage.
Sorry avid coffee drinkers! These results imply that the feeling of alertness is primarily a placebo effect! The simple act of drinking a cup of coffee is enough to generate a feeling of alertness. How crazy is that! Admittedly, the sample size of this study is small and self-reported levels can introduce many confounders. I just found the study to be quite interesting. Turns out that coffee can modulate our taste buds! Better hold off on eating that cake until a few hours after drinking that cup of coffee!