Positives and Negatives of Caffeine
However you like to get your caffeine — coffee, tea, energy drinks, cola — chances are, you’re thinking mostly about the temporary lift for a long night studying for the big test, and not about the long-term effects. The good news is, not all effects are negative. Here are three benefits and three risks for students, according to the recent literature.
- You might just live longer.
If you want to earn a PhD, kiss your amour in Paris, see a lion on safari, be the CEO of your own company — and live to reminisce about it all — you might want to hit the joe. A very large, long-term study recently showed that men who drank two to three cups of coffee a day were 10 percent less likely to die at any age, and women were 13 percent less likely to die. Men (6 percent) and women (5 percent) also saw a decrease if they consumed just one cup a day.
- You’ll get a brain boost.
Consuming just 100 mg of caffeine significantly increases activity in the area of the brain that governs some short-term memory functions, according to a small-scale Austrian study. The extra mind jolt begins about 20 minutes after caffeine consumption, and tapers off about 45 minutes later. Good to know before you head to that 9 a.m. class with the weekly quiz.
- You can jumpstart your workout.
We all know exercise is great for you — but it can sometimes be hard to extract yourself from the veritable mountain of pens, notes and books. Caffeine can give you the boost you need to maximize a workout, even when all seems futile. According to a paper published in the journal Sports Medicine, caffeine can increase speed and power output for up to 2 hours, bolster endurance and decrease fatigue. What’s more, there’s no evidence that caffeine before exercise leads to dehydration or other adverse effects. An article in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology warns, however, that you should proceed with caution if there’s a history of heart disease in your family due to the way caffeine can restrict blood flow to the muscle layers of the heart. (No one wants you to wind up in health services).
- You stand to increase your risk of heart disease.
Caffeine can affect your heart, and not just in that fluttery way after having consumed too much. Studies indicate that caffeine can increase risk of heart attack and coronary heart disease, particularly in heavy consumers, according to a review article out of the University of Toronto. Overall, though, the research on the extent of heart effects remains inconclusive.
- You can stress yourself out. You don’t need more stress. Who does? But consuming caffeine can really frazzle your nerves. A Duke University Medical Center study showed that caffeine consumption amplified stress, exaggerated its effects physically and mentally, and elevated blood pressure and stress-hormone levels. The effects were seen even in habitual consumers, and lasted throughout the day. So that temporary boost might still be stressing you out at bedtime.
- You can end up feeling pretty lousy. Keep it to four or fewer cups of coffee a day, and you might actually feel better. The Mayo Clinic says that more than 500 mg to 600 mg of caffeine a day can cause insomnia, nervousness, restlessness, irritability, stomach upset, elevated heartbeat and muscle tremors. If you want to balance college, that internship and your hot date Wednesday night, you need to feel your best. Make sure you’re not overdoing it, OK?
Like homecoming or senior week, caffeine is a college tradition. Like most things, though, it’s probably best to consume in moderation. So raise a mug or two or three (but not 12), and drink to your health!.
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