Caffeine, College and Coffee

coffee and spoonSome people claim that they simply cannot function until they’ve had their morning cup of coffee. If you are one of the many people who rely on coffee to help get you through the day, rest assure that you are not alone because 83% of adults in the U.S are coffee drinkers. Many college students depend on coffee, whether it’s the motivating factor that gets them out of bed in the morning, their 2 o’clock pick-me-up, or what they count on to sip during the wee hours of the night to get them through those extra hours studying. It doesn’t matter if you take it iced, hot, black, with skim milk, with cream, or with a shot of hazelnut flavor – coffee just seems to do the trick. However, some coffees have added shots of espresso, sugars, creamers, and syrup, making them higher in caffeine, added sugars, and fats. Therefore, it is important to be aware of exactly what you are drinking when enjoying a cup of coffee.

For most healthy adults, it is safe to consume up to 400 milligrams of caffeine a day, which is equivalent to about four cups of brewed coffee. Scientifically, caffeine is a compound that stimulates the nervous system and acts as a diuretic. Caffeine is found in a variety of products including: coffee, tea, soda, cocoa, energy drinks and chocolate bars. On average, one eight ounce cup of coffee contains between 95 – 200 milligrams of caffeine. Caffeine has been shown to have several positive health benefits including:

  • Increased alertness
  • Delayed onset of fatigue
  • Increased mood
  • Stimulating blood circulation
  • Improved reaction time
  • Acting as an aid for athletic performance
  • Decreased risk of Parkinson’s disease
  • Less cognitive decline with aging

However, each individual’s body reacts to coffee and caffeine differently and consuming too much caffeine has adverse health effects. The negative side effects of heavy caffeine use (500 to 600 milligrams a day) include insomnia, restlessness, stomach upset, increased heart rate, headaches, irritability, muscle tremors, crash, and accelerated loss of calcium from bones and increased risk for Osteoporosis

Since high intakes of caffeine have adverse health effects, it is important to be aware of the amount of caffeinated beverages that you consume throughout the day. For example, you should never mix drinking coffee with energy drinks, since both beverages contain caffeine and in high amounts, can be dangerous or even life threatening.

The caffeine and overall nutrition content of coffee differs depending on the blend of coffee and where it is purchased from. The nutritional information of coffees from cafes such as Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts can easily be accessed online or in store. Two popular coffee drinks that seem to be favorites amongst college students include the Starbucks Carmel Macchiato and the Dunkin Donuts Cookie Dough Iced Coffee. Whether you have been a coffee lover all of your life, or if you didn’t pick up drinking coffee until college, there is no doubt that coffee has its benefits. However, coffee should be enjoyed in moderation and should not be something that you solely rely on to function throughout the day.

Photo Credit: Rachel Weidt, FBM

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