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Updated: October 19, 2022 @ 12:25 am
Caffeine is a college culture staple. Professors drink it, students live on it and graduate students keep it on an IV drip. But how do you know if the amount of caffeine you’re drinking is healthy or sustainable?
Caffeine is a naturally occurring stimulant in coffee beans, tea leaves, kola nuts and cacao pods, according to the National Library of Medicine. Stimulants are substances that increase heart rate, breathing rate and brain function.
Humans have also synthesized their own version of the stimulant, often used in medication, energy drinks, cold medicine and gum.
It is unclear how and why humans began to consume caffeine. One unconfirmed legend suggests that a 9th-century shepherd noticed that when his goats consumed wild coffee berries, they had a spike in energy. Consequently, the shepherd began to eat them himself, resulting in the caffeine high recognized today.
Nursing junior Ethan Dang said he uses caffeine daily, drinking one cup of coffee in the morning and three pre-workout drinks throughout the day.
Pre-workout is a powder traditionally mixed with water or milk containing caffeine, amino acids and protein, according to Preworkout.org.
While Dang said he doesn’t feel this much caffeine affects his health, there is ample research citing negative side effects for many avid caffeine drinkers.
Withdrawal symptoms can occur in daily coffee drinkers. Excessive caffeine use can result in anxiety, dizziness, insomnia, dehydration and more, according to the National Library of Medicine.
Another study in the National Library of Medicine found a correlation between college students’ caffeine intake and declining mental health.
In moderation, caffeine intake can increase attention, alertness, mood elevation, cognitive function and result in fewer cognitive failures, lower risk of suicide, and fewer depressive symptoms, according to the study.
However, research found that college students often consume around 800 mg a day, or twice the recommended safe dosage of 400 mg. This extreme consumption was found to increase depression and anxiety symptoms in college students.
Nursing junior Jasmine Martinez said she doesn’t drink coffee because she feels the negative side effects.
“I don’t like the way it makes my heart race,” Martinez said.
Drinking coffee or energy drinks also gives her anxiety, she said.
Despite the adverse health effects, not every student can make it without a cup or two a day. If caffeine is important to a student’s daily routine, research suggests they pick coffee over an energy drink.
Energy drinks are very loosely controlled by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, as companies often sidestep the regulations by listing their product as a supplement. This means companies can sidestep the caffeine limit, according to Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
One single can of energy drink might contain 500 mg of caffeine, already exceeding the recommended daily limit on top of any tea, soda, medication or gum one may consume.
Caffeine isn’t an enemy. In moderation, it’s good for the body and helps with day-to-day tasks. Students simply need to be aware of their consumption and ensure they are balancing work and sleep.
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