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Is that cup of coffee doing more than keeping you up? The benefits and drawbacks of caffeine consumption

For most students, getting their morning coffee is a necessity. However, caffeine has both positive and negative effects on the body and mind that students should know about.

“Caffeine has been shown to affect mood, stamina, the cerebral vascular system, and gastric and colonic activity,” wrote Betty Kovacs on the website Medicine Net.

Caffeine intoxication, as a clinical syndrome according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, is characterized by a suite of symptoms including restlessness, nervousness, excitement, insomnia, flushed face, diuresis (increased urine production), and gastrointestinal complaints.

“People are reaching for their jolt of caffeine like they used to reach for their cigarette,” wrote Kovacs. 

“We all eventually learned the truth about cigarettes, and we are slowly learning the truth about excess amounts of caffeine.”

Jacob Murphy, 19, in SAIT’s pre-employment cabinet making program, began drinking coffee at the age of 14.

“Originally it was sort of a morning ritual, more for the flavour than anything. I found it quite enjoyable.”

Murphy said he drinks coffee now to avoid the negative effects that happen if he stops consuming caffeine, which include a perceived lack of energy and drowsiness. 

Murphy usually drinks three cups of coffee with breakfast, followed by another cup of coffee mid-morning.

He believes caffeine is unhealthy in copious quantities, and says he has reached that unhealthy point.

“You can say I’m somewhat dependent on it.”

However, Christopher Haddon, a third-year continuing education student at SAIT, has prescribed medicine for ADD, and finds caffeine to be a helpful stimulant.

If he forgets to take his regular medication, he will typically buy an energy drink to help him take a test. 

“Normally my brain is all over the place, but with the caffeine it seems to focus me down a bit, allowing me to power through a task a lot easier than if I hadn’t taken it,” said Haddon.

According to Dr. Sarah Brewer on Net Doctor, Haddon’s experience is quite common. 

Caffeine, in moderate dosage, both works as an antioxidant, and can help with concentration, boosting metabolism, and increasing strength, stamina, and endurance.

A moderate amount of caffeine is said to be 200 to 300 mg a day, and a high dose is considered to be over 400 mg a day.

Serdna Patio, employed at the campus Starbucks for six years, said the largest number of espresso shots any one person has asked for at one time is six, which equates to roughly 900 mg of caffeine, according to information published on the company’s website.

According to Kovacs, a common misconception is that decaffeinated beverages contain no caffeine. 

Decaffeinated simply means that the plant leaves the caffeine comes from go through a process that attempts to remove caffeine, but not all the caffeine is lost, she explained

“Depending on how much you consume in a day, you can end up consuming more caffeine from decaffeinated drinks than you would in one cup of coffee.”

Kovac’s assertion is supported by a Consumer Reports study testing the caffeine content of 36 cups of decaf coffee from six locations. More than half of the tested beverages had less than five milligrams of caffeine, but the remaining cups contained 20 to 32 mg of caffeine. 

Coffee time: Mechanical engineering technology student, Daniel Swinamer studies while having a cup of coffee inside The Odyssey coffee house at SAIT in Calgary on Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2018. (Photo by Patrick Concepcion/SAIT)

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