Caffeine: Killer or crucial?

March 8, 2012 | 11 a.m.

Your favorite coffee drink may be doing more damage than you think

Views | Emma Theis

Caffeine: Killer of crucial?

College students depend on coffee but don't consider health concerns.

The grinding of coffee beans and the whir of milk steamers can be heard throughout Brushaber Commons as Royal Grounds attempts to fulfill the orders of the never-ending line of students awaiting their morning caffeine fix. Millions of people start their day with a caffeinated product due to its magical energizing powers, so it’s no surprise that caffeine maintains a top spot in the college student’s diet. 

Caffeine is an organic chemical mostly found in coffee beans, but it is contained in so many products that it is difficult to avoid. 

Caffeine arouses your central nervous system, which temporarily relieves tiredness and makes you more alert. It is a legal stimulant drug that bears resemblance to the illegal substances of cocaine, heroin and other amphetamines.

According to the National Coffee Association, the typical college student drinks three cups of coffee per day. The average cup of Joe contains 112 milligrams of caffeine. That’s 1,095 cups of coffee a year and 40,880 milligrams of caffeine. 

For some, attaining their caffeine fix from coffee just isn’t enough anymore. There are now products for those caffeine extremists who want to take it straight. Everything from tablets, gum and mixable drink powders to caffeinated popcorn, marshmallows and brownies are available for your pleasurable consumption on thinkgeek.com. Is consuming this much caffeine necessarily a bad thing?

We are bombarded with both positive and negative reports about the effect that caffeine has on our body. Most of us ignore the bad and continue on with our caffeine consuming habits that we have become so comfortable with, because isn’t caffeine there to help us get through our day?

In lower doses, caffeine can help us stay more alert and lift our moods. Research studies through the American Journal of Alzheimer’s disease have shown that caffeine could slow the progression of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Diseases.

But by digesting too much and not replenishing yourself with water, the caffeine in that triple mocha latte you’re sipping on is slowly dehydrating your body.

Caffeine also increases your heart rate, dilates your pupils, tightens up your muscles and releases glucose into your blood stream for extra energy. The long term effects can be ongoing spikes in blood pressure levels, insomnia, headaches, ulcers and, in the worst case, addiction. The body can quickly become accustomed to regular doses of caffeine intake and withdrawals are difficult and very unpleasant.

Caffeine overdose is very serious and can be lethal. In 2009, CBS News ran an article about caffeine intoxications on the rise. They mentioned a 2008 report from the University of Massachusetts Medical School that noted 4,600 caffeine-related calls to the American Association of Poison Control Centers in 2005, the most recent data available. I can only imagine how much more those numbers have risen since then. 

As mothers from all over had stated for years and years, ‘Everything is good in moderation.’ 

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