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Energy fix

Coffee can cause detrimental health effects for students

Published: Thursday, September 20, 2012

Updated: Thursday, September 20, 2012 02:09

coffee

Aaron Cranford

Managing studies and extracurricular activities can be difficult, and for the average late night studier and procrastinator, a steaming cup of caffeine is often the key to getting everything done. Though offering temporary energy and focus, coffee can be harmful to leading a healthy lifestyle in college if not consumed in careful moderation.

Although coffee comes from natural products and contains caffeine, a stimulant for the central nervous system, drinking it in copious amounts can be very detrimental to eating and sleeping patterns.

Meghan Windham, Class of 2008 and a dietitian for student health services, says that no student should depend solely on coffee for energy and focus.

“You have to be cautious of the negative effects of caffeine,” Windham said. “If you’re drinking five cups a day, you’re going to have more jitters and other similar effects that caffeine has.”

Windham said that excessive caffeine intake can lead to side effects such as increased heart rate, unusual sleeping patterns and hunger suppression, all negative for students needing functioning brains and bodies for long days at school. Windham also said that excessive caffeine intake can be a product of unhealthy habits, indicating that a student may need to change other aspects of their lifestyle in order to get the energy they need.

“If you’re finding yourself using coffee to stay alert all day long then you need to look at sleeping patterns, eating patterns, what kind of foods you’re having and time management,” Windham said. “I think you can stay alert and feel better with a healthy diet, exercise and good planning.”

That’s not to say that caffeine is out of the question. For some students, coffee offers more than energy and mental stimulation.

“I usually just drink coffee for the taste,” said sophomore aerospace engineering major Jacob Fitch. “I think most of the energy thing is mental.”

According to Windham, one to two cups a day is adequate. Overall, students should eat lots of fruits, vegetables and lean meats to keep energy up. Exercise is also energizing because it increases rather than decreases energy levels.

When it does come to drinking coffee, however, Windham said that simple is the way to go.

“Students should drink coffee more or less black with a little bit of skim milk added into it,” Windham said. “It’s when you start adding more to your coffee that you start to add more calories than its worth for the energy you want to gain.”

Though drinks such as frappuccinos and lattes are unhealthy, these are the beverages most students crave in study sessions.

“Everyone wants the sweet stuff,” said MugWalls barista and senior recreation parks and tourism major Courtney Bernhard. “People always order the lattes.”

Though the world of school and college life will probably never shake it’s coffee addiction, students can work towards lessening the negative effects of their caffeine intake with sleep, healthy food and exercise. Windham said this combination leads to more alert and energetic behavior, offering a healthier lifestyle and more success than any cup of coffee has to offer.

 

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