Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Caffeine Feature

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Walking past Northern Shores Coffee Shop, you catch the strong smell of coffee and chocolate. There’s a line that stretches past the tables, and almost out into the hall. You wonder why there are so many people there at this time of the day- it’s late morning, in between classes. Sure, maybe coffee sounds good right now, but you’re not willing to stand in that line. Why are these people so eager to wait?

“Today? I had two energy drinks and a bottle of pop, but that’s only because I had like two hours of sleep," said freshman, Hana Dinku after a late night of studying.

As they stand in line at UMD’s coffee shop, or carry around a can of Red Bull like a safety blanket, it may seem to some that college students are big consumers of caffeine. There’s the student who just has to stay awake to finish the homework they’ve been procrastinating on for two weeks. And then there’s the partier and drinker.

“Carbon dioxide in pop increases the speed in which an individual feels the effects of alcohol," Lauretta Perry, Health Educator at UMD, said. “In which case, a hangover can be worse."

Have you ever thought about what non-beverage items contain caffeine? If you suffer from bad headaches or migraines, you may have taken Excedrine. Just read the package- in only two tablets of this drug, there is 130mg of caffeine- slightly less that the amount in a cup of coffee. In Midol, there is 64mg of caffeine in two tablets. So coffee, pop, and energy drinks aren’t the only things that can keep you up late at night.

There are some risks if you consume too much caffeine. If consumed daily, caffeine causes bone density to go down, and addiction can occur in the long run.

“Calcium is best absorbed in younger years, and with vitamin D," said Perry.

There are some kinds of pop that add calcium to make it appear better for the consumer. However, without also adding vitamin D, the calcium is not readily absorbed into the bones.

“That’s probably more important for women," said Shelly DeCaigny, another Health Educator on campus.

This is because women are more at risk for osteoporosis, the loss of bone density later in life.

Women need to consider the effects of caffeine on their bodies. There is a link between caffeine and fibrocystic breast disease. This is where cysts, or fatty tissue, develop in a woman’s breast. The cysts can be painful or uncomfortable. When caffeine is removed from a woman’s diet, the cysts are reduced in number, or disappear completely.

Many college students are substituting pop into their diet, instead of the healthy choices of milk, juice or water, according to Perry. This can cause not only weight gain, but also a dependence on caffeine. Tolerance can occur, so you need more and more caffeine to have the same effect on giving you that initial ‘lift’ that seems to give energy and alertness. But if you stop drinking coffee or pop, withdrawal symptoms can occur if you have become dependent.

“Cut back slowly, instead of stopping cold turkey," said DeCaigny.

Students may not stop consuming caffeine because of all these reasons, however.

"Well, I suppose I wouldn't refrain," said freshman Justine Zins. "The only reason I don't drink a lot of caffeine is because I don't want yellow teeth."

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