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Caffeine: Students' love-hate relationship

On April 7, 2014

On any given weekday, the ever-increasing line of customers at the campus Starbucks reveals the unwavering commitment of college students to caffeine. Morning coffee is a staple for many but the stress of maintaining a decent GPA can also contribute to a student’s reliance on caffeine.

Caraline Vaughn, a sophomore psychology major of Jonesboro, admits coffee is a necessary part of her day, even more so when preparing for an exam.

“I’ll definitely have two or three cups of coffee and I might be drinking it until 8, 9, 10 o’clock at night,” Vaughn said.

Andrew Smith, a junior English major, agreed coffee is essential when it comes to studying.

“It gives me energy and makes me super focused,” Smith said.

Although gaining energy is a common theme among coffee drinkers, over consumption may not be the best way to obtain that wakefulness. According to Rhonda Perkins, an RN at NEA Baptist Hospital in Jonesboro, anything in excess is unhealthy.

“I don’t think drinking a lot of caffeine is smart for anyone, college student or not,” Perkins said. “It may keep you awake enough to study through the night, but how much information will you retain when your coffee high is gone?”

Perkins said when thinking about the long-term effects of caffeine intake, those with a history of heart problems should avoid consuming more than the average 1-2 cups a day.

“Anything that’s going to increase your heart rate can cause a heart attack,” Perkins said. “If you’re already predisposed, there’s a chance it could cause issues down the road.”

Although there are health risks Perkins said she is not trying to dissuade people from consuming caffeine entirely. She said she drinks one or two cups in the morning herself, and understands the temptation.

“It’s a naturally occurring stimulate, so there’s a reason people like things like soda, coffee and chocolate. It gives them that short-term boost of energy,” she said.

There are long-term positives of coffee consumption as well. According to Perkins, a recent medical study found that coffee is a great antioxidant that could possibly discourage the formation of cancer cells.

“And it’s great for the colon,” Perkins said.

As for what form of caffeine is the safest, Perkins said natural stimulants, like coffee, are better than synthetic ones such as energy drinks or sodas.

Every person will react differently to caffeine, according to Perkins. Height, weight and personality type can determine the effect it will have on an individual. Medication is also an important factor.

“Some people can drink caffeine all day and never feel a thing,” Perkins said. “Then, some people can have one cup of coffee and be bouncing off the walls. It really depends on the individual’s physiological response.”

Perkins said she would quit drinking coffee if it were discovered to have serious future health risks. Vaughn said she would try to stop drinking coffee, but would eventually come back to it, and Smith said he wouldn’t stop drinking it either.

Caffeine plays a major role in the daily routines of college students, some more significantly than others. The methods and amounts of consumption vary, but as is true for most things, moderation is the safest way to avoid health risks.

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