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Is my coffee killing me?

Finals week is approaching and students who consider caffeine as integral to success may need to consider the risks and benefits associated with its use.

For some people, the morning cup of coffee is an important part of waking up. For others, keeping their coffee-mug topped off all day long is imperative. Although coffee is a favorite among many the caffeine boost that it provides is available in several forms.

With demanding schedules and heavy workloads, most college students find their way to the coffee line at some point.  Some students carry a full cup of coffee all day, others prefer tea or energy drinks, and others avoid caffeine altogether. Whether it is coffee, tea or the latest energy-drink that aids the late night study sessions caffeine is a substance often behind the boost.

According to Pat Sayer, college of arts and sciences faculty, the risks and benefits of coffee consumption vary depending on the amount consumed. Consuming 6-16 ounces of coffee per day actually decreases fatigue and anxiety. However, Sayer went on to explain that regularly consuming more than 16oz of coffee per day can have adverse effects such as a decrease in memory and retention, dehydration and increased anxiety. In some cases, consuming large quantities of caffeine can result in caffeine toxicity. Symptoms of caffeine toxicity include nausea, heart palpitations and diarrhea.

Sayer added that while antioxidants in caffeinated drinks such as coffee are beneficial, caffeine consumption can become problematic when caffeine is mixed with other ingredients such as sugar in coffee, and ginseng and guarana in popular energy drinks. These ingredients work as synergists with caffeine, combining the effect of the stimulant. Although caffeinated drinks such as coffee and tea are shown to have benefits when lower quantities are consumed over time, popular energy drinks can do more harm than good if not consumed mindfully. Along with synergists such as ginseng and guarana that boost the effect of the caffeine in energy drinks, some brands have been known to contain up to 500mg of caffeine per can: the equivalent of 10-14 cans of soda.

Every student knows that success is important. However, over-consuming caffeinated beverages is likely to decrease productivity rather than increase it. While there are many different caffeinated drinks to choose from, being aware of what is added to them, as well as being mindful of the how much is consumed, is paramount for reaping their benefits and avoiding their risks.

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