Is caffeine your best friend or your worst enemy?

Zach Trueblood

Staff Writer

Photo by Bill Hogan/Chicago Tribune/MCT The recent craze of adding caffeine to a range of kid-friendly snack foods is raising enough concern that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has launched an investigation of caffeine's possible health effects on children and adolescents.

Photo by Bill Hogan/Chicago Tribune/MCT
The recent craze of adding caffeine to a range of kid-friendly snack foods is raising enough concern that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has launched an investigation of caffeine’s possible health effects on children and adolescents.

Whether you are brewing your first cup of the day or cracking that energy drink to get past that afternoon hump, you are introducing a nervous system stimulant to your body. Caffeine comes in many forms nowadays.

It is plain to see that caffeine has a foothold in nearly all of our lives. This obsession has only gained momentum in recent years and doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.

One glance around the cafeteria at lunch time and you can see any number of students with coffee, soda, energy drinks, or tea; these are the staples of our day. They are our necessary boost to get us to and from class.

According to the FDA website, “90 percent of people in the world use caffeine in one form or another. In the U.S., 80 percent of adults consume caffeine every day – the average adult has an intake of 200 mg per day, the amount in two 5-ounce cups of coffee or four sodas.”

Caffeine is a necessary part of Parkland student Karlo Fernandez’s day. Fernandez is in the HVAC Electrician program. His program requires long days and attention to detail.

Fernandez drinks around four cups of coffee a day. He doesn’t necessarily enjoy the taste so he doctors it up slightly with cream and sugar, but does enjoy the energy boost it provides.

“If it wasn’t for school and work I never would’ve touched the stuff but it helps me focus. Without coffee my day is ruined,” Fernandez stated.

Another avid caffeine user is Nursing major Alexis Kriska. Kriska illuminated some of the downsides to caffeine, as she drinks about five or six shots of espresso a day.

“There are a few downsides. There’s usually a lot of sugar involved and I have a heart condition so sometimes it beats too fast,” Kriska explained.

People such as Kriska are reliant on caffeine to get through the day. Some even go to lengths that could possibly be dangerous to them.

The growing trend with caffeine nowadays isn’t just to have a few cups of coffee a day. It’s to get the most bang for your buck. Energy drinks are jam-packed with extra caffeine and pills filled with caffeine are offered over the counter at most gas stations.

The Parkland College cafeteria offers over 25 different products containing caffeine; Mountain Dew and its many flavors being the best seller.

The FDA’s website states that “an acceptable amount of caffeine is 200mg per day or two 5 ounce cups of coffee.” Your average can of soda is 12 fluid ounces. A can of Mountain Dew contains around 54 mg of caffeine, in other words, a quarter of your recommended daily allowance.

An 8.46 fluid ounce can of Red Bull contains 80mg of caffeine. A two fluid ounce can of Five Hour Energy contains 200 mg of caffeine, your entire daily recommend dosage.

A growing trend among athletes is to use powdered caffeine to increase their performance. These powdered forms of caffeine contain 4,706 mg of caffeine per teaspoon. That is 23 times the recommended allowance from the FDA.

All of these forms of caffeine listed are available for anyone to purchase. No ID required. The increase of caffeine and heart related issues has our Wellness Coordinator, June Burch fairly worried.

“The scariest part is that no one really knows the anatomy of their own heart until it acts up. Caffeine can cause a rapid heartbeat, seizures, and sometimes even death,” Burch stated. “Another troublesome aspect of caffeine intake is the amount of caffeine is rarely labeled. Even decaffeinated beverages contain some amount of caffeine.”

Caffeine does have an important place in many medicines though. Many painkillers and migraine medicines utilize caffeine to speed up the healing process. Just like any other drug, caffeine has its own share of withdrawals. Many experience headaches and increase drowsiness after not using caffeine.

Make sure you are aware of what you’re putting into your body. If caffeine helps you perform better academically, then go for it. As with many things in life, moderation is key.

To get more advice on making healthy choices, visit the Wellness Center in U112.