New research from the University of East London has found that the buzz we get from caffeinated coffee might just be in our heads. The small study suggests that if we expect a certain effect from caffeinated coffee, we’ll act accordingly, even if we actually downed decaf — just like a placebo effect.
To come to this conclusion, researchers gave coffee to 88 volunteers. Some were knowingly given caffeinated coffee, some were given caffeinated coffee but were told it’s decaf, some were knowingly given decaf coffee and some were given decaf coffee but told it’s caffeinated.
The study participants drank their coffee in five minutes and then waited for 55 minutes before undergoing a number of tests of their mental performance, reaction times and mood, MSNBC reported.
However, the people who drank the decaf coffee thinking it was caffeinated coffee did just as well on the tests as the people who really did have the caffeine, The Telegraph reported.
“Both caffeine and expectation of having consumed caffeine improved attention and psychomotor speed,” researchers wrote in the study.
Researchers also took stock of the study participants’ moods during the study, and found that the people who thought they were drinking caffeinated coffee but weren’t had happier moods than the others.
However, the mental effect only works if you think that the coffee you’re drinking is caffeinated — not if you’re aware that it’s decaf, MSNBC reported.
Past research also has found that decaf coffee can have the same effect on our blood pressure as caffeinated coffee, The Daily Mail reported. In that study, Swiss researchers found that decaf coffee raises blood pressure the same amount as regular coffee, suggesting that caffeine may not be the blood pressure-raising culprit.