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Coffee’s risks & benefits

More so than books, paper, pencils, or other school necessities, one item is a daily must for students nationwide: Caffeine. According to a 2018 study from the Clinical Nutrition Journal, 92% of students take in some form of caffeine daily. The study also found students on average consumed 159 milligrams of caffeine per day, jumping to 173 mg per day when adjusted to regular caffeine users. The chief avenue for intake ended up being coffee. If you’re on a college campus, odds are you either drank some coffee or have a caffeinated drink on hand as you’re reading this, but is that energetic consumption having an adverse effect on you?

Since caffeine’s rapid rise in consumption in the mid 90s, nutritionists and medical scientists have pursued an answer in regards to the pros and cons of caffeine consumption, but the results have been somewhat scattershot. Studies from the Mayo Health Clinic show a temporary rise in blood pressure when consuming coffee. Meaning if your family has a history of high blood pressure issues, maybe steer away from that fourth cup of Joe in the day. 

Another key potential danger of coffee drinking is its effects on ones’ rest. A 2013 study from the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found consuming caffeine six hours or closer to bedtime will have “significant effects on sleep disturbance.” The drawback of this study is the amount of caffeine used was 400 milligrams, or around four cups of coffee. So, keep that in mind when pouring late-night study session brews. 

What about coffee’s benefits? More recent studies involving coffee and caffeine are finding the benefits might be outweighing potential threats. 

“The overall evidence has been pretty convincing that coffee has been more healthful than harmful in terms of health outcomes. For most people, moderate coffee consumption can be incorporated into a healthy diet,” said Frank Hu, chair of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard’s Chan School of Public Health.

According to Hu, that moderate consumption mark is around two to five cups of coffee per day. Hu also links this coffee intake to a lower likelihood of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, liver and endometrial cancers, Parkinson’s disease, and depression. Hu warns going over the 400  mg mark puts you at the potential of dehydration and migraines, especially when not accompanied with enough water. 

Chris French of Downtown Tyler’s award-winning Café 1948 has a different take on the bean’s benefits.

“Coffee for me is a lot of things; a source of income, a way to connect with people, a way to express myself, the list can go on. Coffee, beyond being a vessel for caffeine, has had a tremendous culture and various communities interpolating across many subcultures like cars, video games, photography and many more,” French said. “To me, coffee is like a language. It serves as a cornerstone to which people of all walks are drawn to, and from those people you gain knowledge and tales of experience, and all from the heart of coffee.” 

But how much caffeine is in the various forms of coffee? 

“Most 12 oz. cups of coffee hover around the 110 mg range, varying by region, roast, process, etc. Your average espresso has around 80 mg. which surprises a lot of people to hear a number below your simple cup of Joe, but you have to factor in volume; an espresso hovers around the 2-ounce mark, which makes the mg per volume much higher,” French said. “Things like lattes and cappuccinos are made with espresso. So, caffeine content will be about the same. Cold brew is going vary wildly in my opinion, since cold brew is easily the least standardized item in the industry. Your average 16 oz. cold brew from Starbucks has somewhere around 200 mg, but most local shops use much less coffee per volume of water. At which, I would expect somewhere closer to 130mg-150mg per 16 oz.” 

As time goes on, the benefits and drawbacks to coffee and caffeine will continue to be studied. So, with all this in mind, the big takeaway for students is to actively monitor how much caffeine they’re getting per day, particularly if among those crossing that 400 mg per day mark. If you’ve already a strong coffee once or twice today, go grab a big glass of water instead of that coffee or tea.

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