Evaluating Caffeine Consumption

Skyler Brown '19, Staff Writer

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A grande latte with two percent milk, one pump of mocha and one pump of peppermint. At this point, ordering at Starbucks is second nature. My carpool stops by two to three times a week where I order 150 mg of caffeine. Later in the day, I will also drink my daily 18.5 oz black tea – 84 mg of caffeine – then a mug of chai tea – 40 mg of caffeine. My personal consumption of caffeine is relatively new. My parents tried in vain to keep all caffeinated items from me, arguing it would stunt my growth. But by junior year it was clear that I was not going to be growing any taller than 5’2” and the glorious doors of Starbucks were open. Just in time too. Junior year kept me up even later, and coffee seemed like the best way to beat the fatigue. As a senior, my lack of sleep and caffeine usage has reached new heights, leaving me pondering the impacts of my habits.

Courtesy of Wall Street International Magazine

My first concern was that I was drinking too much caffeine. With research, I discovered The Food and Drug Administration (the FDA) states that healthy adults can consume 400 mg of caffeine daily without any risks of side effects; however, The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests adolescents consume only 100 mg. I am forced to admit my 274 mg is a just tiny bit high. So what? I don’t experience jitters or stomach aches unlike some of my friends. However, I was startled to discover a slew of other less-noticeable effects. For example, caffeine overuse can cause irritability, insomnia, fast heartbeat, nervousness, increased blood pressure, and headaches. Caffeine can even slow down neural connections and cause your body to lose calcium. These symptoms don’t just occur right after drinking a morning latte; it takes five to six hours for the caffeine concentration in your body to be cut in half.

Even if I do not notice many physical effects, at the very least, caffeine is helping me mask and manage an unhealthy lifestyle. I reach for the morning lattes because I am so utterly exhausted. Without my mid-day iced tea, I might not be able to keep my eyes open in class. Rather than simply going to bed, I’ll take my friend’s tip and drink a cup of coffee and then sleep for 15 minutes before the caffeine goes into effect. I am actively choosing not to address the root of my exhaustion: a lack of sleep. I walk the line of becoming dependent on caffeine. When I skip the drinks, I notice I am sleepier. Luckily, I do not yet get headaches, have trouble concentrating, or feel irritable, anxious, or depressed, but that does not mean I will not in the future.

Even with my increased awareness, it is hard to imagine changing my habits. My responsibilities will not be decreasing and the amount of time I have to sleep probably will not be increasing. I suppose it is about taking little steps. We can work hard to be more productive, limit caffeine drinks to the mornings, even reach for less caffeinated tea rather than coffee.

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Evaluating Caffeine Consumption