In a study from the University of Sydney, scientists found decaffeinated coffee can reduce coffee withdrawal symptoms in people reliant on their daily caffeine fix.
They found caffeine withdrawal symptoms, such as headache, fatigue, bad mood and irritability, shrank after participants drank decaf—regardless of whether or not they knew it was decaf.
In the study, the team examined 61 heavy coffee drinkers, who consume three or more cups a day, went without caffeine for 24 hours and had their withdrawal measured.
They were then separated into three groups. Two groups were given decaf, with one group told truthfully they were drinking decaf and the other deceived into thinking it was regular coffee.
The third group, a control, was given water.
Three-quarters of an hour later, all participants were asked to rate their withdrawal symptoms again.
They found a big drop in caffeine withdrawal in the deceived group even though there’s no pharmacological reason why it should.
Because these drinkers expected their withdrawal to go down, it did go down. In other words, a placebo effect.
The team also found that withdrawal symptoms also reduced even when people knew they were getting decaf. Not as much as the group we lied to, but a significant amount.
This type of reaction is known as an open-label placebo effect, an effect that occurs even when you know you are getting a placebo.
Before they were given their beverages, participants were asked to rate how much they would expect various drinks to reduce their caffeine withdrawal.
Unsurprisingly, people said they expected to experience the greatest reduction from caffeinated coffee. The ratings of expected withdrawal from decaf and water were more surprising.
Withdrawal in the group we gave water to didn’t drop at all whereas the people who were given decaf experienced a significant reduction.
The team concluded this open-label placebo effect was driven by a strong conditioned withdrawal-reduction effect built up over a lifetime of drinking coffee.
The pleasing increase in alertness and energy people feel when drinking their daily coffee is just caffeine withdrawal being reversed.
If you care about coffee, please read studies about coffee linked to lower risk of prostate cancer, and drinking coffee could help control blood pressure.
For more information about nutrition, please see recent studies about plant nutrient that could help reduce high blood pressure, and flavonoid-rich foods could improve survival in Parkinson’s.
The study was conducted by Dr. Llew Mills et al and published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.
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