Careful—coffee actually affects your taste buds, and this is why coffee and sweets seem to go so well together

August 25, 2017 5:23 pm Last Updated: August 25, 2017 5:23 pm

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Ever wonder why you crave a sweet pastry with your cup of joe? The latest study by Cornell University researchers has unveiled the mystery.

The scientists, who published their findings in the Journal of Food Science, discovered that caffeine has the ability to suppress people’s perception of sweetness, which could in turn cause them to seek it out more.

It’s no wonder a sugary donut seems so enticing with coffee then.

Caffeine blocks adenosine receptors in the brain that promote relaxation and sleepiness. That’s why we generally feel more alert after drinking coffee. But the researchers discovered that blocking those receptors also affects our taste buds.

The scientists conducted an experiment with two different groups: one had caffeinated coffee with sugar added, another had decaffeinated coffee with sugar added. They were then asked to rate the sweetness of their drink. Those who drank the caffeinated coffee rated it as less sweet.

“If you eat food directly after drinking a caffeinated coffee or other caffeinated drinks, you will likely perceive food differently,” said Robin Dando, assistant professor of food science at Cornell and senior author of the paper.

Dando and his team also asked all participants to rate their level of alertness after drinking the coffee. Both groups reported that they felt more awake—and at similar increased rates. So it turns just the idea of having coffee makes us perk up.