Healthy ways to approach caffeine intake

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By Cameron Klaus

People are immediately immersed in the smell of espresso or the sound of coffee beans grinding. They walk into what seems like a healing wonderland for their exhausted bodies. There are so many choices. So many caffeinated drinks they could indulge in, but what? They can only pick one?

For the cranky, decaffeinated morning, a coffee shop is where that changes. From small, local shops to big, commercial chains like Starbucks, everyone has his or her preference.

“I used to drink at least two, sometimes three cups of coffee a day,” SMU student Maddie McMahon said.

Americans have showed that the addiction is real. People in the U.S. drink more coffee per day than any other country in the world. With approximately 24,000 coffee shops across the country, Americans who drink coffee are consuming about three cups of coffee per day. That’s a lot of caffeine, and most Americans can’t start their day without it.

“During the morning rush, we sell about 500 coffee based drinks,” Starbucks barista Mo said.

With a high caffeine intake, people start to become addicted. Too much caffeine can lead to mood swings, insomnia, increased muscle tension and can possibly impair digestion and nutrient absorption.

“I drank it mainly for the caffeine but when I realized I was still feeling tired, I switched to tea and immediately felt more awake,” McMahon said. “Once I stopped [drinking coffee], I never felt jittery or uncomfortable. With tea, it’s light and gives me energy.”

The most common symptom of caffeine withdrawals is headaches that last from two to nine days. To avoid withdrawal symptoms, people continue to drink coffee or replace it with a different kind of caffeine, like McMahon did.

Caffeine is the most used stimulant in the world for a reason. Although many people believe that caffeine is a diuretic, researchers have found that caffeine does not cause dehydration or fluid loss.

SMU Nutritionist Courtney De La Rosa said that caffeine does have its health benefits.

“Research is revealing that caffeine in some forms, such as coffee, might actually have benefits, including: enhancing cognitive function, providing antioxidants, providing small amounts of potassium, niacin, vitamin E, and magnesium and serving as a carrier for calcium-rich milk,” De La Rosa said.

Coffee is a staple among college campuses. It helps students get through a day of exams and stay up late at night to finish homework. But sometimes, students can go overboard with the caffeine.

“I think that, in moderation, caffeine is fine to consume. Setting a standard for ‘how much is too much’ depends on many factors including age, life-stage, pre-existing medical conditions etc.,” De La Rosa said. “For the average healthy college student about 400 mg of caffeine per day is considered safe.”

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