BY KRISTEN PEAKE
It’s hard to believe that it’s almost May and the clock is ticking until summer break.
And with break approaching, students know all too well that we must get through the last barrier between school and summer: dreaded finals week.
The added pressure to perform well leaves us sleep deprived and stressed out, so we make the run to Starbucks and ask for that extra shot or start brewing our own cup of the rich, delicious thing we call coffee.
Why do we turn to the delightfully bitter beverage? Well, coffee is filled with a chemical stimulant called caffeine. According to the FDA, caffeine occurs naturally in over 60 plants including coffee beans, black tea leaves, kola nuts (yes, the Cola in soft drinks) and even cocoa beans used to make chocolate.
The FDA recommends that adults consume no more than 200mg of caffeine, or about 5 cups-per-day. Nearly 80 percent of American adults consume caffeine every day, and a study performed in 2013 at New Hampshire University showed that college students are turning to energy drinks rather than your typical cup of joe.
While energy drinks are relatively safe if the recommended amount is consumed, they are quite potent. The average Red Bull contains enough caffeine as a strong cup of coffee from Starbucks. And among the consumers of energy drinks, college students are the biggest.
Energy drink companies aggressively target college students by handing out their products on campuses to raise awareness of their product. Filled with chemicals other than caffeine including ingredients such as taurine, guarana, vitamin B, ginseng and ginkgo, add that extra buzz needed to outlast the day.
When consumed in moderation, caffeine can actually have positive effects on the body. Caffeine can act as a mental stimulant and increase alertness, cognition and reaction speed.
In nearly 19,000 studies performed on the health effects of caffeine, most state that excessive caffeine use has negative short-term and long-term effects on one’s health.
Caffeine is known as an analeptic, a stimulant that excites the central nervous system in the brain. It also is an ergogenic, or a performance enhancer. Both of these effects give drinkers the buzz that makes us feel awake and temporarily rejuvenated.
In the short-term, if we do not keep up our regular coffee intake, we get that nasty caffeine headache. That caffeine headache is actually a symptom similar to drug withdraw.
While they are far less intense than actual drug withdraws, the body does experience them.
In the long-term, almost all studies show that those who consume more than 500mg of caffeine a day can suffer from higher rates of kidney and bladder cancer and osteoporosis as well as sleep deprivation and anxiety.
When the stress starts to hit and you need that extra edge to make it through the day, it is safe to turn to caffeine for help. But moderation is key.
By consuming the recommended amount of caffeine each day, we can get the benefit of extra alertness and energy. It is important however, that we consider how much we consume as well as the lasting effects too much caffeine brings to our bodies.