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Caffeine: Friend or Foe?

November 27th, 2010

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Caffeine is used by students everywhere to help get through finals season, cram for tests, and pull all-nighters on projects and papers. The advantages and disadvantages of caffeine use, however, are debated among the general public and medical community. For this reason, it’s important, as a student, to know how to use caffeine in a way that isn’t harmful to your body.

Caffeine, found in the beans, leaves and fruit of some plants, is a naturally occurring substance that is actually classified as a psychoactive stimulant drug. This is within the same category as illegal drugs, and it works in the same way. Crossing into the brain and acting upon the central nervous system. Caffeine intake results in changes in perception, consciousness, mood, cognition, and behavior. Caffeine temporarily controls drowsiness and stimulates alertness. Caffeinated beverages have been consumed for centuries, and caffeine is, in fact, the only psychoactive drug that is legal and unregulated across the world.

There are 100mg of caffeine in a shot of espresso, 80-135 mg in a cup of percolated coffee, 115-175mg in drip coffee, 30mg in green tea, 50mg in black tea, 34mg in 12oz of Coca-Cola, 54mg in Mountain Dew and 80mg in 8 oz. of Red Bull. It only takes, though, around 30-40 mg of caffeine to feel effects.

The actual benefits of caffeine are not completely known, but research has found that coffee drinkers are less likely to have Parkinson’s disease, type 2 diabetes, and dementia. Coffee drinkers may also have fewer cases of strokes, heart rhythm problems and some cancers. Caffeine can be beneficial when necessary because it raises the level of adrenaline in your body, causing your heart rate to increase and your muscles to tighten. Caffeine increases mental faculty and helps the body perform necessary tasks when fatigued.

Although the general healthiness of caffeine intake is debatable, there are no major health risks when it comes to caffeine. You only pose a risk to your health when you overuse caffeine. The recommended amount of caffeine is no more than 400 mg a day. So, always try to be aware of serving sizes and calculate the amount caffeine you are actually consuming. Caffeine is also present in unexpected places, such as chocolate. An excessive consumption of caffeine will trigger your body to build up an immunity to the effects of caffeine. This means that it is actually possible for your body to display symptoms of caffeine addiction and withdrawal. If you see symptoms such as irritability, restlessness, anxiety, headaches, heartburn, high blood pressure, sleeplessness, and nausea, you may have a caffeine addiction.

Make an effort to limit your caffeine consumption to 40mg, which is the amount you actually need in order to feel effects. Then, if you need a pick up later in the day, have another 40mg.

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