tom sanders

Finals are on the horizon and that means students will turn to mass amounts of caffeinated beverages like coffee and Red Bull to find enough energy to pull through the all-nighters.

Students may think the amount of caffeine consumed during finals week will not leave a lasting affect on their body or mind, but they would be wrong. More than 11 million Americans consume too much caffeine, according to the American Council of Science and Health.

“It’s because we don’t get enough sleep,” business freshman Kristin Balbier said while sipping her Julian’s frozen frap. “The reason I got one today was because I was really tired.”

For many students, their day begins with a trusty cup o’ java, fitting with the Food and Drug Administration, which states that more than 100 million people drink coffee on a daily basis, many of which fall between the ages of 18 to 24.

Drinking too much caffeine can negatively impact a person’s body by causing jumpiness, anxiety, insomnia and even greater side effects like irregular heartbeat, muscle spasms, nausea and abdominal pain.

But caffeine isn’t completely bad. According to Wikipedia encyclopedia, “Caffeine is a stimulant that acts on the central nervous system with psychotropic effects and stimulation of respiration, a stimulation of the heart rate and a mild diuretic effect.”

Translated into a normal student’s vocabulary, drinking caffeine in small doses can stimulate your brain and provide energy, making the drinker feel more awake and even improve their concentration.

English senior Sonya Lee works at Linea’s Cafe downtown and has seen her share of coffee lovers. Lee thinks that some students drink coffee to help keep themselves awake, while others use coffee as a way to prevent boredom.

“We have students come in because they need coffee to get things done,” she said. “But I think a lot of students come in because a cup of coffee is pretty cheap and it gives them somewhere to go.”

While coffee gives people something to do, the effects of the caffeine gives their body something to do as well. Caffeine stimulates the heartbeat, which improves muscle function and the digestive system by increasing the production of stomach acid. The effects of this alkaloid can even help people struggling with migraines and asthma.

Caffeine also acts as a weapon for fauna. When produced by the plant, it paralyzes and kills many of the insects that try to feed on it.

Depending on a student’s caffeinated “drug” of choice, they could be consuming more than 10 times the amount of caffeine suggested for daily intake. Brewed coffee and energy drinks like Pimp Juice and MDX have more than 100 milligrams of caffeine per serving.

180 Degrees is the drug of choice for sophomore mechanical engineer Michael Kelly because “it tastes like Orangina and has a crapload of caffeine in it,” he explained.

Kelly believes that students buy and drink lots of coffee not because they are addicted, but go to coffee houses for the societal benefits instead.

“Caffeine is a social thing,” Kelly, said. “Look at Uptown, people go to coffee shops to interact in a low-key atmosphere-that’s different from meeting at a rowdy party. A coffee shop will not be broken up by the cops.”

Starbucks, a frequent location for coffee-loving students, offers a variety of coffee with different caffeine amounts. A “grande” house coffee (drip) has an estimated 500 milligrams of caffeine, according to Energy Fiend, a Web forum specializing in caffeine-related topics.

Wired X294, another popular energy drink, has an estimated 300 milligrams, a extraordinarily high amount of caffeine intake for one day, let alone one serving.

While drinking two medium-sized cups of coffee isn’t detrimental to your health, consider the caffeine consumed after many hours. Alcohol mixed with energy drinks can be a lethal combination too.

Some habitual coffee-guzzlers may think caffeine will help them to lose weight or increase their metabolism. Unfortunately, while caffeine does act as a stimulant to the fatty acids in our bodies, regular caffeine consumption reduces sensitivity to caffeine.

If a person decides to “quit” their habit, coffee drinkers especially will experience sensitivity to adenosine. Most likely, blood pressure will drop dramatically, causing headaches. Other symptoms of the glamorous-sounding “caffeine withdrawal” range from inability to focus, to the extreme cases of nausea and vomiting.

The problem with limiting caffeine consumption is that it’s in more food and beverages than many people realize. Chocolate products, teas and soft drinks are loaded with caffeine.

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