BUSTED! You saw “endocannabinoid” in the headline and you just came running. We’re telling your parents, Holden Caulfield. But while we’re totally ratting you out, we can also explain to your folks that new research finds a link between coffee consumption and a drop in the number of neurotransmitters in the endocannabinoid system, the opposite effect of those “tomato plants” you are growing in your closet that you told your mom are for the science fair.
Published in Journal of Internal Medicine, the study is the work of lead author Marilyn Cornelis, an assistant professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. According to Science Alert, Cornelis et al took 47 coffee drinkers and had them quit consuming coffee for a 30-day time period. These 47 participants would then drink four cups a day for 30 days, followed by eight cups daily for another 30 days. At each stage of testing, researchers would take blood samples from the participants to measure and analyze “changes in biochemistry that result from consuming food and drink.”
The resulting profile revealed 115 metabolites were impacted by the consumption of coffee. A total of 82 of those chemicals were already known, and could be mapped to 33 metabolic pathways, a number of which were completely new relationships.
One of these noted effects was to the endocannabinoid system. According to the article, the endocannabinoid system affects everything from cognition to sleep to appetite. Consuming cannabis increases the number of endocannabinoid neurotransmitters, and in times of stress, the human body “tends to decrease its production of endocannabinoids.” This study found that coffee consumption had an effect similar to that of stress.
It may not be the coffee consumption per se causing the stress, but the drastic changes in consumption asked of the study’s participants. “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,” Cornelis states. “It could be our bodies' adaptation to try to get stress levels back to equilibrium.”
The study also found a link between drinking coffee and the metabolic pathway keeping steroid levels in check, which could have an effect on “everything from growth to sexual characteristics.”
Thus far, the study only goes to show that there is a link between drinking coffee and the endocannabinoid system; the exact interaction has yet to be established. The next step, according to Cornelis is to “delve deeper and study how these changes affect the body.”
So whenever your parents find the espresso machine hiding under your bed, let them know you need it to regulate your endocannabinoid levels. You've been eating a lot of tomatoes.