While it may be tempting to succumb to the call of a brewing coffee pot and maximize your time by cutting out necessary functions such as sleep, caffeine may not be your best option to finish that last-minute math assignment. Coffee, as I’m sure you know, contains large amounts of caffeine. Caffeine is a mental stimulant, which makes it great for staying awake long hours and simulating alertness. There are problems with it, however, as many OHSers learned at Camp Jones Gulch during Summer Session. At the camp, caffeine was limited, and the supply of coffee and tea almost resembled a drug market, with people sharing what they had of Starbucks VIAs or tea bags. Those who didn’t have access to the stimulant, or were accustomed to more, had to deal with headaches and irritability. Sudden caffeine withdrawal can also cause fatigue, anxiety, problems concentrating, sometimes even nausea, or tremors in extreme cases. These effects may not be worth the temporary high gained from that extra shot of espresso. Luckily, scientists have noticed that symptoms do not directly correlate with quantity. Essentially, if you do have an addiction, it becomes easier to wean yourself off it without suffering from too many symptoms of withdrawal. Of course, if you have a caffeine addiction already, you probably already know this, and have suffered from these problems in the past.

Withdrawal isn’t the only problem, though. Those symptoms are temporary, and unlike heavy drugs, rarely come back to haunt you. Researchers at Sichuan University in China completed a study in 2012 that suggests that caffeine intake can increase risk of bone fractures. While follow-up studies have not occurred yet, more information may be available in the future.


Similar studies have found connection between bones and coffee as well, especially in young women. Results revealed that the body’s ability to absorb calcium, a necessity for bone health, was inversely proportional to caffeine intake. Coffee consumption can also cause higher blood pressure. High blood pressure could potentially damage one’s heart or arteries. Multiple studies, dating all the way back to the 1980s revealed this correlation.

At the same time, studies have also shown that caffeine can have good effects on health. Multiple studies, including one conducted by Osaka University in Japan and another by Harvard University, have found health benefits of both coffee and tea. Reduced chance of type-2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and certain types of cancer are only some of the possible benefits of consuming caffeine. However, many of these benefits are associated with tea, so it might be a good idea to exchange the coffee pot for a kettle every once in awhile and switch things up for a bit. Though, if you do, remember that tisanes, otherwise known as herbal teas, are caffeine-free. If you’re looking to get a fix, they might not be the best choice, though they’re better than black tea if you’re trying to avoid caffeine.

Nobody will force you to cut back on caffeine, and of course during finals week it might be necessary to give in to the need to stay awake. At the same time, maybe this year it’d be a good idea to try to find lower-caffeine options while still avoiding withdrawal, especially during times of low workload such as breaks. Maybe you’ll even find you enjoy them more. While scientists continue to argue whether or not coffee is good or bad health-wise, in the end the choice to drink coffee is your own, and most likely you don’t care whether or not caffeine will suddenly give you magical abilities. Scientific studies will most likely influence your consumption far less than homework load will, though it may be a good idea to consider withdrawal complications.

Coffee Cup

Interesting Facts:

It would require 80 cups of coffee (in a short period of time) to kill you.

Like any stimulant, the less you drink, the more effective it is. So instead of drinking 5 or 6 cups a day, it might be a better idea to just stick with one or two.

Caffeine makes you need to go to the bathroom more. It’s a diuretic.

Caffeine affects the caudate nucleus, but other, more serious drugs affect the nucleus accumbens.

Many companies give caffeine measurements on websites, though it’s usually less advertised than other nutritional information such as Calories.

Black teas have the most caffeine, and white or herbal teas usually have the least.

To find out whether or not you’re a caffeine addict, use this handy little guide from the International Coffee Association

Low caffeine users: less than 200mg per day

Moderate caffeine users: 200-400mg per day

High caffeine users: more than 400mg per day

16 fl oz black coffee at Starbucks = 330 mg

1 bag of black tea = 60-90 mg

1 bag of white tea = 30-55 mg

8 fl oz of Coca-Cola = 23 mg

1 oz chocolate = 1-35 mg

Categories: Science & Tech


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