New research sheds light on nicotine and morning brew.
Some smokers find that their first cigarette of the day is less enjoyable without a cup of coffee. That may not only be a morning habit, though. According to University of Florida researchers, compounds in roasted coffee beans may help lessen the impact of morning nicotine cravings.
Researchers found two compounds in coffee that directly influence certain high-sensitivity nicotine receptors in the brain in a cell-based study. These brain receptors in smokers can become hypersensitive following a night of nicotine withdrawal.
Although the recently released findings have not yet been tested on humans, they represent a significant advancement in our understanding of how nicotine receptors in the brain are impacted by coffee and cigarettes, according to Roger L. Papke, Ph.D., a professor of pharmacology at the University of Florida College of Medicine. For most individuals, the feel-good component of coffee is caffeine, although smokers may get another kind of boost.
“Many people like caffeine in the morning but there are other molecules in coffee that may explain why cigarette smokers want their coffee,” Papke said.
The researchers applied a dark-roasted coffee solution to cells that express a specific human nicotine receptor. The researchers came to the conclusion that an organic chemical compound in coffee may help restore the nicotine receptor dysfunction that causes nicotine cravings in smokers.
The findings have led Papke to a broader hypothesis: One of the compounds in brewed coffee, known as n-MP, may help lessen morning cravings for nicotine.
Papke said he was intrigued by the idea that nicotine-dependent smokers associate tobacco use with coffee in the morning and alcohol in the evening. Although alcohol’s effect on nicotine receptors in the brain has been thoroughly researched, the receptors’ interaction with coffee has been studied less.
“Many people look for coffee in the morning because of the caffeine. But was the coffee doing anything else to smokers? We wanted to know if there were other things in coffee that were affecting the brain’s nicotine receptors,” Papke said.
The findings, he said, provide a good foundation for behavioral scientists who could further study nicotine withdrawal in animal models.
Reference: “Coffee and cigarettes: Modulation of high and low sensitivity α4β2 nicotinic acetylcholine receptors by n-MP, a biomarker of coffee consumption” by Roger L. Papke, Madison Karaffa, Nicole A. Horenstein and Clare Stokes, 28 June 2022, Neuropharmacology.
The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health.