Is Caffeine Actually Good for You?

Is Caffeine Actually Good for You?

Caffeine consumption has been linked to improved memory function and greater risk of heart failure.

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Caffeine is often the staple of every college student's existence. Truckload academics, the pressure to perform, and rampant sleep deprivation all made me turn to coffee and other stimulants to keep my energy churning.

There's a romanticism, too, to dropping by a café and sipping espresso while working on an essay for class. Caffeine is a win-win kind of substance: it can be stylistic and energizing at the same time.

My caffeine dependency has waned since my early college days, yet I still find myself craving it. But is this "dependency" a good thing? Or should I be worried? I decided to do some sleuthing to find out.

The Benefits

Apparently, there is a website called The Caffeine Informer (who knew?). Here, I discovered a slew of benefits linked to caffeine consumption, including improved memory function, liver detoxification, and prevention of weight gain.

A host of studies have also examined caffeine's ability to lower your risk of a variety of cancers, kidney stones, fatty liver disease, and even suicide. Wow! Other studies investigate caffeine's ability to increase athletic performance, general stamina, and cognitive function.

The majority of these studies, however, used the word "associated" or "linked to." In the medical community, such terminology indicates that these studies are not 100% conclusive. Further research needs to be done to ensure that any of these "associations" become "conclusions."

Nonetheless, I can state from experience that caffeine does seem to fire and smoothe those mental circuits rather effectively; I've consumed caffeine prior to workouts with positive results, and I'm fairly certain my liver is happy (TBD). Caffeine can also elevate mood, making it a potential asset for individuals struggling with depression.

The Downside

I appreciated the fact that The Caffeine Informer also included a post scrutinizing the negative aspects of caffeine consumption. These, I will admit, proved to be more alarming—caffeine consumption has been linked to early death, heart failure, breast tissue cysts and cancers, miscarriages, indigestion, and much much more.

AARP was quick to back up these claims, pointing out that caffeine is, indeed, a drug—to which many people can build dependencies. Too much caffeine can indeed be harmful to holistic health, particularly given its capacity to disrupt sleep patterns, elevate anxiety, and even interact badly with certain medications.

One study affirmed caffeine's impact on how we manage blood sugar levels. Sugary caffeinated drinks can essentially lead to blood sugar volatility, "stressing out your brain" and increasing your odds of psychological distress. A similar study pointed to the fact that depressed individuals are more likely to drink high levels of caffeine, and that the substance itself can promote depressive mood.

Given the fact that I weaned myself off of coffee due to its ability to make my heart race—and my agenda loom in an ugly way—this makes a lot of sense. What's more, over 90 percent of Americans consume caffeine on a daily basis, and I assume that a large portion of this percentage tends to over-consume.

The Verdict

No single study, researcher, or article out there will claim that caffeine is entirely beneficial nor entirely detrimental. (I mean, Starbucks has to make a living somehow, yes?)

The bulk of caffeine's advantages and disadvantages appear to be medical associations, making it all the more difficult to define it as a hazard or kitchen-cabinet-standard.

Yet one thread does appear to ring true: the high we crave from caffeine impacts our physiology. It may require some moderation because it can all too easily become a crutch. It has the capacity to provide hazard and health, much like alcohol, other stimulants, and even some herbal supplements.

There are certain vehicles for caffeine that are better than others. Green tea, for example, packs in a lot of antioxidants and amino acids your body craves while delivering a mild energy boost. Gas station energy drinks, on the other hand, tend to offer nothing more than cane sugar and artificial colorings (in addition to a caffeine rush).

My verdict? Treat it like any relationship. Consume if you wish, but consume wisely. Don't be afraid to stop if it's not serving you well.

If you've read this post looking for validation for your current caffeine consumption, I'm not here to provide it (sorry!). I'm merely here to offer some of the facts that are swimming around laboratories, medical mags, and blogging platforms. Such statistics should not feel like a true tragedy. If anything, they should compel the kind of body awareness that can change your life for the better.

There are alternatives to caffeine, particularly if you find yourself reaching for caffeinated beverages for the sake of that vital, intoxicating energy boost. There are scores of mood- and energy-elevating substances, including herbal supplements, that can do the trick nicely, for a fraction (if any) of the biological and physiological cost.

I'm a fan of maca root, for example, consumed in beverage or capsule form. Maca root, also known as Peruvian ginseng, is revered for its capacity to promote stamina, improve cognitive function, and even address fertility issues (although the latter is certainly not on my radar). The surge of energy it offers most consumers doesn't result in the jitters, either, and it's even associated with hormone balancing potential.

You may also wish to try out ashwagandha, a known adaptogen that can reduce the impact of oxidative stress, prevent the development of free radicals (associated with cancer), and keep your energy on an even keel throughout the day. I consume this herb in capsule form, but I've been seeing health food store beverages with traces of ashwagandha lately.

Lastly, check out Chinese ginseng, frequently found in standard strains of tea. Be cautious with ginseng, however, if you are particularly sensitive to caffeine or stimulants. Some people report feeling overly anxious or jittery after consuming ginseng, so use wisely.

For now, if all of this sounds like too much, consider transitioning to more lightly caffeinated beverages, such as green tea (which as less than half the caffeine content of coffee). Easing your body off of this substance may be your key to striking the healthful balance you deserve.

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Somehow, I Ended Up With The Best Roommate Known To Man

I've truly been blessed.

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College can be a very stressful experience to prepare for. From orientation to selecting your classes for the semester, your responsibilities quickly pile up. On top of all that, you also have to find somebody who you will be sharing a room with for your first year of college.

After not sharing a room with my sister for several years, I was worried about going back to splitting a living space with someone else. Immediately after I finished submitting my application to finalize my commitment to Temple, the stress of finding a roommate sunk in. Rooms in the residential hall I wanted were filling up quickly, and I still didn't have a roommate.

I was trying to find a roommate, but everybody seemed to already have their living situation figured out. However, one day, I received a message from a girl named Tori. Little did I know, she would become my best friend. I saw her profile prior to on RoomSync, an app for finding roommates, so I was really excited when she messaged me.

We didn't meet until move-in day, which made me a little bit anxious, but right from the start, everything clicked. We have lots of similar interests and living standards. Even though our majors are totally different, hers being biology and mine is English, that didn't stop us from being friends and enjoy spending time with one another.

In just the first weekend, Tori discovered that I hadn't seen a lot of movies that I should have seen growing up. From that point on, she created a list of various movies, and every weekend we watched at least one movie together. I don't think she has shown me a movie that I haven't liked yet, and I'm so glad that we started this tradition.

On top of movies, Tori has also expanded my music taste, which is a very hard thing to do. I couldn't be happier that she introduced me to Dean Lewis and Noah Kahan and then persuaded me to go to their concert in October with her. In general, she has got me more into music and is increasing my knowledge about music overall.

As well as going to a concert together, we also recently went to see my favorite Youtubers when they came to Philly. When we found out that Cody Ko and Noel Miller were going on a comedy tour and coming to our city, we immediately planned to buy tickets. It was a night full of laughs, and I'm so happy I got to spend it with her.

Tori Ploesch

Having a random roommate who is also your best friend is rare. I've heard a lot of horror stories about random roommates, but I honestly can't picture not being friends with Tori. Along with being an amazing roommate, she is incredibly selfless and caring. Her focus is always on helping people, and I admire her for all the hard work she puts into everything she does.

Being surrounded by people in the College of Science and Technology, I know it isn't easy. Because I have a strong dislike of science, I give major props to Tori and her friends in CST. I'm so happy she is studying something she's truly passionate about and will love doing in her future career. Whenever I meet people that want to pursue a career in science or the medical field, I immediately give them immense credit. It's extremely difficult to take that career path, and I'm already excited for Tori and her ultimate success.

College is a time for making new friends that will last even after you stop going to school together. Even though I'm only in my second semester, I know I can trust Tori with anything, and she'll be there for me when I need her. I also know that she'll be 100% honest with me when I need guidance or advice.

I cannot even begin to express my gratitude to Tori for messaging me to room with her. My college experience has been incredibly positive thus far because she has been with me through it all. I'm extremely grateful for the way things worked out because I couldn't have asked for a kinder roomie.

Thank you, Tori, for not just being an incredible person and roommate, but my best friend as well.

P.S. I can't wait to bake with you in our apartment together next semester!

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What Your 20's Are All About

Authenticity.

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Being a twenty-something is glorious.

It's easy. It's beautiful. It often looks like a pair of designer cut-offs or a laptop on a beach. It isn't terribly serious.

In fact, it's rarely serious. Yet it makes sense--more sense than any other age because it's newly educated, self-discovered, and hopeful.

Right?

This is what social media tells me. It is what college told me. It is something many of us believe.

I am convinced, however, that there is more to it than this.

Someone or some book neglected to add a few more postscripts to this chapter of the Book of Life. Or maybe they were lodged under the "Recommended Reading" portion of the syllabus (and hence overlooked).

Whatever the case, your real twenties are about something in between the really good vodka and the wandering. That something has the power to shape this decade of your life into a different kind of gem.

(Yes, you can cut your teeth on it.)

Uncertainty

College (or life after high school) somehow perpetuates the myth that graduation precedes a concrete stairway. And that stairway leads clearly to a life path, a career, a vision, and a culmination, all to the tune of Jimmy Hendrix.

A bachelor's or associate's degree initiates many into the world of work and careerdom. But it does not necessarily make things any more certain.

Perhaps you've graduated with a degree in French literature and suddenly feel an impulse to stare at lots of graphs and statistics.

Maybe you have no impulse whatsoever. You have hobbies—fixing bikes, swiping left—but cannot seem to grasp a vision.

If you're like I was in my twenties, perhaps you sense you want to do everything your parents didn't, if only your feet would touch ground sometime soon.

This decade is definitively unknown. Not having a solid sense of what comes next is not an inherent fault of yours; it's part and parcel of life's whimsical years.

Want in on a shinier secret? All decades are uncertain. This one just feels the ripest.

If you wake up every morning and have no answers (or job, or health insurance, or girlfriend, or house), great! You're doing this right. Answers will emerge, but in the meantime, sit with the discomfort of being simply where you are at.

Forgiveness

As the decade of uncertainty unfolds, lean into it. I found that I could get more comfortable with being an unknown entity in my twenties by forgiving myself (and others).

You don't have to go to an ashram to practice forgiveness, although I'm not discouraging you from this path. Nor do you have to start embracing a new religion or giving up red meat and Cheetos.

Forgiveness starts with awareness. Beginning to recognize the difference between personal goals and societal demands is the prelude to following a gentler, more visionary path.

When I forgave myself for being a perfectionist, despairing that I would never find a job, and wondering if I really should have chosen my English major, life became much easier.

Science also tells us that our brains are still firing, forming, and developing in our twenties.

As such, friendships may peel away. Certain kinds of knowledge may dissolve. You may start to realize that holding grudges or avoiding conflict isn't worth it anymore—or is now worth forgiveness.

Forgiveness can also be empowering. It's one of many doors that can shuttle you more effectively into the unknown (with grace and a good pair of heels).

Exchange

Everything we learn in childhood, high school, and beyond is not necessarily the truth. The decade of your twenties is about the conscious and willing abandonment of past ideals, notions, and information.

To some, this may be simple rebellion. To others, it may be part of the self's natural evolution.

To me, it's about an exchange.

Being in your twenties can involve trading in those old ideas for more relevant ones. It's like a consignment store for self.

At this stage in life, a lot of things crumble. A lot of new buildings and scaffolding develop. Sometimes, this is brutal. It may feel unfair. It may feel like a relief.

No one is here to say that you have to be the self of your childhood or the self of eighteen (or last year). Mindfully weeding out the old and heralding in a more graceful, informed you will make that part of your thirties that much easier.

Risk

If you haven't gotten the memo yet, this is all really risky.

I mean, trekking across Mongolia, coming out, changing your name, abandoning your career, or taking up deep water diving isn't easy.

Forgiving yourself and leaning into uncertainty—those are hard, too.

A lot can get lost. A lot more can crack, splinter, and explode. It's a minefield for the mind and heart.

This decade may be the riskiest of your life. But that's how you know you're playing a good hand.

Without risk, the path becomes in danger of getting "too comfortable." That's one thing we millennials can agree on, at least—to be comfortable is to be stagnant.

I say, be risky. Feel imperiled, whether it involves a belief system or relationship or vision. On the other side of risk is knowing.

Authenticity

This decade is yours. It can shimmer, darken, or expand depending on what you do with it. No one can tell you otherwise.

Society may urge you to be free, playful, and exuberant in your twenties. Excellent.

It may also urge you to be driven, focused, and cynical. Also excellent.

But your twenties are really all about authenticity, or what you do with it. The greatest years of your life won't necessarily be college—they may just be the ones in which you chose to live powerfully within the scope of your greatest and truest self.

If no one was there to prep you for your twenties, or if you feel that the ones who were got it all wrong, take these words to heart. Be uncertain and timid. But also be audacious and genuine.

The one who's looking closest is, after all, you.

Note: Another version of this piece appeared on Thought Catalog.

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