By Sophia Xiao
Forget the pledge of allegiance, consuming caffeine has become the quintessential daily American ritual, with about 90 percent of Americans consuming caffeine in one form or another every single day, according to a study by John Hopkins.
“More than half of all American adults consume more than 300 milligrams (mg) of caffeine every day, making it by far America’s most popular drug,” writes Villanova University on their website.
Millions of Americans use caffeine to stay awake, boost productivity and alleviate fatigue. Caffeine acts on the nervous system. Over the course of the day, adenosine will build up in the brain, causing us to become sleepy. Caffeine blocks the effects of adenosine on our brain.
“I drink it whenever I feel tired, which is every day, whatever time is suitable. So if I’m tired in the morning, I’ll drink coffee in the morning, if I feel tired at 3am, I’ll drink coffee at 3am. There’s not really a (time) cutoff for me,” explains avid coffee drinker Kevin Su. “Sometimes I start shaking a lot, and if I drink too much coffee my face gets really red, so it’s kind of like a caffeine overdose for me. Sometimes it gets harder to concentrate.”
However, caffeine consumption has gained a bad reputation for being addictive and allegedly causing a host of health problems.
“Whenever you’re addicted to anything, it’s probably not a good thing. Especially for the people who like coffee, they say they can’t survive in the morning without coffee because without the drug, they go through withdrawal symptoms like headaches. They feel miserable until they have their coffee,” explains Physiology teacher David Vasquez.
For decades, doctors warned that caffeine could cause heart disease, stunt growth and damage the digestive tract. However, new studies have shown that consuming up to 400 mg, or about 32-oz of coffee, is safe for most healthy adults, according to Mayo Clinic. Beyond its addictive qualities, coffee in moderation could actually be good for you. Coffee has been shown to lower risks of Type 2 diabetes and stroke. It is high in antioxidants, reducing inflammation and slow down processes that drive aging.
However, the story is very different for adolescents. According to the American Pediatric Assoc., adolescents ages 12 to 18 should cap daily caffeine intake at 100 mg, because kids and adolescents can be more sensitive to caffeine’s undesirable side effects, such as anxiety, diarrhea and dehydration. Even within suggested doses, caffeine use in the afternoon and evening can have negative impacts on sleep quality and quantity.
Children and teens are much better off relying on proper nutrition and a good night’s sleep to stay awake in class, rather than caffeine.