Is Your Doctor's Coffee Consumption Putting You at Risk?



Over half of the American population drinks coffee not only for its strong flavor but for its powerful energizing effects. The British Medical Journal recently published a study on physicians' coffee consumption, and the results were intriguing. Here's what they found.

British Study Tracks Coffee Consumption of Doctors

A study conducted in one of Switzerland's large teaching hospitals tracked the purchase of coffee among 766 physicians within the hospital. From the data they recorded, the study found that:

  • 84% of doctors purchased coffee at the hospital
  • Orthopedic surgeons purchased the most coffee per person per year
  • Anesthetists purchased the least coffee
  • Male doctors bought more coffees per person per year
  • Senior consultants (five or more years’ experience) bought the most coffees per person per year
  • Heads of departments and senior consultants also purchased more rounds of coffee per person per day than junior doctors

There was a significant association between specialty and hierarchical position with yearly coffee purchasing. The study also correlates time spent at the hospital with an increasing need for caffeine.

Why Coffee is A Doctor's Stimulant of Choice

Coffee is a powerful yet seemingly harmless stimulant that many people use. It works by inhibiting adenosine in the brain. Adenosine is a chemical that bonds with a receptor called "A1." This bonding triggers feelings of fatigue, urging us to slow down and eventually go to sleep.

Caffeine, however, can mimic adenosine and bond with the A1 receptor, which blocks the real adenosine. Once this happens, glutamate and dopamine circulate the body more rapidly, triggering feelings of energy and adrenaline.

The Harmful Effects of Caffeine Dependency

Though the energizing effects of caffeine are powerful, they can also backfire just as quickly. Once caffeine has worn off, the adenosine that couldn't bond with its receptor rushes back in, triggering an overwhelming feeling of tiredness. One cup a day may not seem so bad, but when you're relying on caffeine to stay awake, the "crash" can be detrimental to your mental and emotional states.

Doctors put themselves and patients at risk if they cannot make clear, calm, and smart decisions. A caffeine crash may debilitate their ability to think and control their emotions in stressful situations. Coffee also disrupts sleep patterns, making harder for doctors to get much-needed sleep after a long, hard, and caffeinated shift. We hope our doctors can keep their stamina up and balance the effects of caffeine with the healing power of sleep, but we may never be sure.