As college students, we often depend heavily on caffeine to get us started in the morning and to keep us going throughout the day. Caffeine can seem like a cure-all and a way to get away with less sleep, but it can actually have dangerous effects. The most popular ways to stay awake are by drinking coffee, tea, soda or energy drinks. Each of these drinks have effects on the body that can be either positive or negative.
According to AARP, caffeine is a mild stimulant that can have some benefits like lowering the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease and may prevent strokes or certain types of cancer. However, caffeine can have several negative effects like raising the risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, and osteoporosis. Caffeine can also cause unfortunate side effects with certain medications, worsen insomnia, agitate anxiety, and cause heartburn.
Freshman Gabby Brown has a negative history with coffee that has caused her to change her habits, “Caffeine, coffee specifically, gives me a crazy amount of energy,” said Brown. “I thought about how coffee turns your teeth brown, and tea is a lot healthier for you. Coffee is really addicting. Every single morning, I would wake up and drink two cups of coffee to get me started, but I realized that wasn’t healthy, so I switched to tea.”
The caffeine content in coffee can be addicting and cause the drinker to have to continue increasing the amounts they drink in order to get the same results. Some students, like freshman Sara Wiberg, have healthier habits, limiting their caffeine consumption. “I drink those cold Starbucks drinks a few times a week, right in the afternoon when I’m starting to feel tired,” explained Wiberg. “They make me feel like I can get through my biology lab, which can seem to drag on without the helpful boost of caffeine.”
Though coffee has its negative effects, it is still healthier than two caffeine alternatives: soda and energy drinks. Sophomore Matt Thompson has the right idea, “I stopped drinking soda when I got tonsillitis,” said Thompson. “Whenever I drank soda while I was healing, it really hurt, so I just stopped drinking soda altogether. It’s terrible for me, so I haven’t drunk soda in about 4 years, and I don’t miss it at all.”
According to WebMD, soda has been linked to health disorders like obesity, diabetes, kidney damage, and higher risks of strokes and certain types of cancer. Believe it or not, energy drinks are even worse. Cynthia Sass, MPH, MA, RD, and writer for WebMD states, “Energy drinks contain multiple stimulants that, when combined, can be dangerous and have a very powerful effect on the body. Most people know how much caffeine they can tolerate, but may not be familiar with the effects of some of the other ingredients.” She goes on to state the symptoms of drinking energy drinks, which are only magnified when drinking them on an empty stomach, such as upset stomach, leg weakness, heart palpitations, jitters, nervousness and difficulty concentrating.
Most drinkers of beverages like soda and energy drinks are unaware of the amount of caffeine that each serving contains. An average cup of coffee contains about 125-150 mg of caffeine, a 12 ounce can of soda has about 35-38 mg of caffeine, and an average sized energy drink can have upwards of 250 mg of caffeine. The recommended daily amount of caffeine is no more than 200-300 mg per day. Some students pound down countless energy drinks without realizing how much caffeine they are putting into their bodies.
Freshman Kyle Hayes recounted an experience he had. “I drank three energy drinks in order to pull an all-nighter, and then I got all of my work done and had a couple of extra hours, so I drank more to stay up,” said Hayes. “I got really jittery and felt like my heart was going to explode, and then I fell asleep. I slept through all of my classes the next day. Now, I know not to do that!”
Haye’s story is not an isolated event, but rather a lifestyle for many college students. A healthier caffeine alternative is drinking tea, specifically green tea that contains natural ingredients. The next time you think about pulling an all-nighter and going through two or three energy drinks, think again!