A smart way to start the day
Sanjay Gupta, left, and Michael Lemonick discuss caffeine's effects on their way to a coffee shop.
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(CNN) -- Coffee makes many people feel alert, energized and even more cheerful, but can that steaming espresso, latte or cappuccino make you smarter?
Not exactly, researchers say, but studies show that it does give brain power a wake-up jolt.
"It allows you to use what brain power you have in a much more efficient and focused way," said Time magazine reporter Michael Lemonick, an avid coffee-drinker who's been looking at caffeine's effects on the brain for a recent article.
The drug -- it is a drug -- works by blocking the neurotransmitters that would normally calm the brain and cause a sleepy feeling.
Other stimulants work by increasing the amount of stimulating neurotransmitters in the brain.
Harris Lieberman, a research psychologist at the Military Nutrition Division of the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, told Lemonick that intelligence "is an inherent trait," that isn't changed by caffeine.
He said caffeine tends to energize people and help them focus on boring and repetitive tasks, even if when they are well rested.
"When you're sleep-deprived and you take caffeine," Lieberman said, "pretty much anything you measure will improve: reaction time, vigilance, attention, logical reasoning -- most of the complex functions you associate with intelligence. And most Americans are sleep-deprived most of the time."
Scientists at the Medical University in Innsbruck, Austria, found that men performed significantly better in short-term memory tests after being given a dose of caffeine equivalent to about two cups of coffee.
Any java junkie will tell you caffeine is addictive -- but drinking a couple of cups of coffee every day does not appear to cause any serious side effects
There have been concerns that drinking too much coffee could increase the risks of cancer or high blood pressure, but that has not been proven.
Lemonick said that there also is evidence that caffeine can protect against diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, as well as liver damage, gallstones and depression.
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