The Buzz on Caffeine

Would you consider yourself to be a chronic caffeine consumer? If your answer is yes, you are certainly not alone. According to the National Coffee Association, almost ¾ of Americans are “hooked on coffee,” one of the leading sources of caffeine. Especially on a college campus, it is rare to see a student in the morning without a to-go cup of some sort, most likely filled with coffee or tea. Sales of beverages filled with caffeine like Red Bull and Monster are on the rise as well. Students studying late at night or spending all-nighters in the library usually are stocked with extra espresso shots in their coffee drink, an energy drink, or a 5-hour energy shot at their side. There are several other ways of getting a buzz from caffeine including sodas, coffee-flavored yogurts, tea, coffee ice cream, or chocolate.

Caffeine is classified as a drug because of its effects on the central nervous system. There are studies showing both the positive effects of consuming caffeine and the negative if consumed in excess.

Various positive effects of caffeine intake include:

  • Boosting memory
  • Improved concentration, short-term memory, and mental function
  • Decreased fatigue
  • Speeding up reaction times
  • Increase in mood and alertness

If consumed in excess, caffeine can have these not so desired outcomes:

  • High blood pressure and blood sugar
  • Decreased bone density (this happens when soda is consumed in large amounts, and is especially common in women)
  • Insomnia
  • Tremors, chest pains, palpitations
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Inhibits calcium absorption
  • Increase in anxiety
  • Aggravates some health problems
  • Easy to become desensitized to it

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Caffeine exaggerates the body’s stress response, and children, teens, and the elderly are especially at risk for its negative effects. A worry right now in today’s society is that it is showing up in products in higher amounts, especially because product sizes are increasing. There is a push by certain organizations for food labels to show exactly how much caffeine is in a certain product to make sure overconsumption doesn’t become an issue.

While it’s true that many people claim they are “addicted to caffeine,” in reality most people aren’t. Caffeine withdrawal is however an actual syndrome. How much caffeine one should have in a day is truly dependent on the individual – some are very sensitive to its effects while others can go to sleep right after drinking a cup of coffee. It’s necessary to find a balance, like with anything consumed in a daily diet. If you notice you are being affected by it in a negative way, cut down your intake so addiction or impaired health does not occur. An average intake of around 3-4 cups a day of coffee or a caffeinated substance, which is around 300-400 mg of caffeine, has been shown to have little evidence of health risks.

You can certainly keep on chugging that cup of Joe in order to be functional in the mornings, but keep in mind balance and moderation while doing it!

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References:

Caffeine Picture

University Nutrition

WebMD

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