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Nutrition lecturer talks caffeine consumption, healthy alternatives

Published: Thursday, November 8, 2012

Updated: Thursday, November 8, 2012 01:11

Caffeine is a stimulant that some people discover and utilize early in their college careers. For many, it also becomes fundamental to their daily routine after graduation.

The typical working man or woman drinks coffee in the morning to help kick start their day. For students, getting a jolt of caffeine is sometimes crucial for studying purposes. In order to wrap up a late-night study session, it sometimes takes a solid dose of caffeine to fully focus and finish comprehending those Math 141 concepts, polish off that English essay or maybe finish some Chemistry Owls.

Energy drinks are one example of a caffeine stimulant. Some studies have proven energy drinks to be harmful, even fatal to some people.

A 14-year old girl died from heart arrhythmia in December after drinking large cans of an energy drink on two consecutive days. Wendy Crossland, the girl’s mother, is now suing the beverage company for not properly informing the public about the high levels of caffeine.

That may be an extreme case, but what is the healthy amount for a daily intake of caffeine? Linda Talley, lecturer and director of the dietetic internship program at A&M, discussed the appropriate amount of caffeine to consume on a daily basis.

“In large amounts [caffeine] can be dangerous, especially to people who have heart problems,” Talley said. “Four hundred milligrams or less a day is OK, 3 to 4 cups of coffee isn’t going to hurt you, but 6 to 8 might.”

A 16-oz brand-name energy drink has 160mg of caffeine. The danger with many energy drinks is the hefty dose of caffeine coupled with a large dose of sugar. In comparison, a 12-oz soft drink has 36mg of caffeine and a 16-oz coffee has anywhere from 150 to 330mg of caffeine.

“Large doses of caffeine can affect you pretty adversely. I tell all my students to study early so you don’t have to stay up all night,” Talley said. “What your brain really needs is rest and glucose before you take your exams. The problem with a lot of energy drinks is that they are fairly short-lived.”

A more modest dose of caffeine such as a cup of coffee or even a soft drink coupled with some good studying habits are what Talley suggested to be the solution. Energy drinks can provide that “mountain-top feeling” but also the “bottom of the valley feeling” as well.

However, in a college student’s world, procrastination runs rampant and time is of the essence. Lily Geisler, junior history major, said she typically drinks four to five energy drinks a week.

“I waitress and I usually drink them at work because I can be there sometimes until 2 or 3 a.m.,” Geisler said. “I drink them during finals as well. I just have to eat something before I drink them.”


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