More than half of Americans drink coffee daily, according to research at Syracuse University. For many, coffee’s jolt is the best part of waking up.

“I couldn’t live without it, I drink it every day,” said a Hartford construction worker who said he drinks at least six cups of coffee before he arrives at work.

Dr. Laura M. Juliano, an assistant professor at American University’s Department of Psychology, has studied coffee and its effect on people.

“It feels good. It’s a stimulant drug, so it makes people feel happy, more talkative, more sociable, more awake and alert,” she said. “It has a rewarding effect on the brain chemicals. It’s no different really from all drugs taken for recreational purpose, such as tobacco or alcohol.”

Coffee or cola?

While typical soft drinks can provide a similar effect, the amount of caffeine they deliver generally is significantly lower. Research has shown that the beneficial effects observed in coffee are not replicated in other drinks.”The caffeine in coffee tends to have a bigger bang for the buck,” Juliano said.Sue Gebo, a registered dietitian in Hartford, Conn., pointed out that coffee tends to serve as the better drink over soft drinks because the typical soda contains more than 100 calories, compared to a cup of black coffee, which has almost no calories.”It’s the stuff people add to coffee — the cream, the extra cream, the sugar — that can add 60 or more calories in a large coffee,” Gebo said. “Then, the flavored syrups add significantly more calories.”Gebo also explained that coffee can camouflage normal hunger signals, but that wears off through the day.”People are more likely to get out-of-control hungry when the caffeine wears off. When people are trying to lose weight, they might get into trouble,” Gebo said.As with anything we consume, however, side effects can accompany the benefits of caffeine in coffee. Read full article.