Get Well

The Caffeine Controversy

by Liz LaBeau, blogger

(Courtesy of psychologytoday.com)

Before college, the only time I consumed anything coffee-related was coffee ice cream. That abruptly ended when I found myself in my first week of college midterms and desperate to keep my eyes from closing and falling asleep in my books. Now, it’s my instant-fix for caffeine during exam week. I turn to coffee in the morning, mid-day, and whenever I have an extra assignment due and need to keep the midnight oil burning strong. As my coffee-addiction has prompted me to think is this healthy and should I be fixated on caffeine to wake me up, I seriously considered trying to wane myself off of my dependency on the stimulant completely. However, how do you know if caffeine all that bad for you? Are there health benefits to the extra caffeine you consume daily?

Caffeine is a stimulant of the central nervous system, causing increased alertness. It is a compound that provides most people with a temporary energy boost and elevated mood. Caffeine works by changing the chemistry of the brain, blocking the chemical adenosine, which causes drowsiness.

College students get most of their caffeine from coffee, soda and energy drinks. Some of these sources, such as coffee, have been noted to provide benefits. According to Mayo Clinic, the health benefits outweigh the risks. Studies have shown that coffee may protect against Parkinson’s disease, type 2 diabetes and liver cancer, in addition to providing antioxidants. While coffee seems to be a healthy way to wake yourself up from your slump in studying, soda and energy drinks are unhealthy alternatives to get your caffeine fix.

Energy drinks pack on the caffeine kick, and high doses of caffeine can lead to some scary health scenarios. High doses of caffeine can cause heart palpitations and dysrhythmias, in addition to running the risk of increased blood pressure. Both energy drinks and soda have large amounts of sugar and calories.

So while caffeine has its benefits and its negative aspects, it is a natural stimulant that is best used in moderation. A cup of joe a day won’t kill you, but I wouldn’t say the same for an energy drink. Where you get your caffeine determines whether or not your caffeine consumption is a healthy habit. Dependency on caffeine is where one should draw the line. Addiction to any substance, no matter the form, is unhealthy.

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