Can the Aroma of Coffee Improve the Mind?

Coffee may no longer be something people just drink to get its energy boosting, mind-sharpening effects. According to a recent study published by the Journal of Environmental Psychology, its aroma may also be enough to improve our cognitive function.

To conduct the study, researchers separated 114 students by placing one group into a normal room, while the other group was placed into a room that contained the aroma of coffee. Each group was then asked to answer a series of math questions from the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT). The scores of those in the caffeine-free room were average, while those in the room filled with the coffee-like aroma were found to have significantly higher scores.

While the coffee scent in the room of those with the significantly higher scores was free from stimulants, such as caffeine, and used as more of a placebo effect, the coffee scent was still found to provide the students with more energy and made them feel more alert in comparison to the students in the other room, or compared with other scents or no scents whatsoever. Because of this study, researchers are learning more about coffee and the different ways in which it can affect the brain and body. In addition, the team who conducted the initial study also want to extend their research in effort to determine whether or not the aroma of coffee (rather than drinking it) can also cause individuals to stay awake for longer periods of time. This knowledge, if proven, could be very useful for things like study groups or those planning events in the future.

Still, it’s important to note that while coffee has many benefits (such as improving heart health and quality of life), there are also still downsides to drinking this caffeinated beverage that physicians like Dr. Ghahary say patients need to be careful of. For example, coffee can have a negative impact on your circadian rhythm. If you’re wanting to go to sleep by 9 PM, then you’ll probably want to avoid drinking coffee past 5 PM. It only takes approximately 45 minutes for your body to absorb the caffeine, but its effects can last anywhere from 4 to 6 hours, which can leave you tossing and turning at night, or having an increased boost in energy when you’re instead wanting to wind down. Too much coffee consumption late at night can also lead to a condition known as insomnia, which is essentially when you’re chronically unable to fall or stay asleep, and having such a condition usually requires medical intervention where you will either need to take medication or follow specific steps to help “re-train” and re-set your circadian rhythm. Too much coffee consumption has also been linked to an increased cancer risk, which recently sparked a California judge to rule that all coffee companies located in the state would be required to carry a cancer warning label due to present carcinogens.

For more information on the risks and benefits of coffee, click here.

Originally published at on September 25, 2018.



Dr. Ali Ghahary is a Family Physician in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

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