Coffee: helps or hurts?

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Bill Hogan/Chicago Tribune/MCT

Experts warn favorite pick-me-up is ‘addictive.’

Anyone walking into a classroom, whether it is morning or evening, will usually see beverages sitting on desktops. Among the most common is coffee.

Many students drink coffee to help them stay awake. However, drinking too much coffee to keep from dozing off in class can be harmful and contribute to an unhealthy lifestyle.

According to Mark Hyman, a practicing physician and blogger on www.huffingtonpost.com, coffee is very harmful.

“It is addictive. It requires you to drink more and more to get the same ‘high’ and eventually is needed just to feel ‘normal’. Headaches, exhaustion and other biological signs of withdrawal put it clearly in the camp of addictive drugs… It stimulates the release of dopamine, which helps us focus, pay attention and remember. But it depletes those neurotransmitters over time and loses its effectiveness,” Hyman said.

San Jacinto College student Victoria Tovar attends classes at night because she works during the day. She said she knows coffee is not the healthy way to go, but it helps her muster energy for her three hour class.

“I usually stop by McDonald’s and buy a cup of coffee. I know that once I put the creamer and sugar in my coffee it becomes unhealthy, but it really, really helps me stay awake during my three hour course. I work all day, and by the time I get off of work, I’m drained. Coffee gives me energy for just the right amount of time. I guess I could find a healthier alternative,” Tovar said.

There are healthier alternatives that will provide students the boost of energy they need to stay awake during class. One is to reduce the consumption of coffee. Coffee becomes harmful when it contributes to elevated levels of caffeine intake.

According to Dr. Michael J. Brues, a clinical psychologists and blogger on www.huffingtonpost.com, the recommended amount of coffee is no more than 24oz. a day.

“Don’t kid yourself about how much coffee you’re really drinking. Some coffee places sell 16, 20, 24, or even 28-ounce ‘cups’ of coffee. With one of these beverages, you can meet or exceed the recommended maximum daily amounts of caffeine. The National Sleep Foundation recommends no more than three 8-ounce cups of coffee per day,” Breus said.

Tovar said she did not know her coffee intake was well above the recommended amount.

“I drink about two 16 ounces of coffee a day. That’s twice as much as the recommended amount. So it sounds like I just need to reduce the amount of coffee I consume,” Tovar said.

Another alternative is green tea. If energy is what’s needed, green tea has the answer.

According to Ashley Walton’s article ‘Homemade Drinks for a Natural Energy Boost’ published on www.livestrong.com, green tea combined with other ingredients is a natural energy booster.

“Green tea gives a natural caffeine boost, but the additions of pomegranate juice and chia seeds both pack antioxidants and nutrients that will also rev the body’s engines,” the article states.

Green tea has many health benefits. It contains catechins, an antioxidant that helps reduce the risk of strokes, heart failure, cancer and diabetes. It also helps with weight loss and prevents tooth decay.

In light of all the potential benefits, San Jac student Brittany Harris said she is a green tea convert.

“I turned to drinking green tea,” Harris said, “because I knew it was better than drinking coffee. I only drink green tea in the morning or if I feel like I need a pick me up.”