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Opinion

Cup of ‘joe’ or cup of ‘no’: student weighs pros and cons of coffee

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BY HALLIE O’NEILL

I recently went to the doctor’s office for a general check-up.

We went through all the routine questions before my nurse asked me about my caffeine intake. Upon hearing my answer—“I have to have at least two cups of coffee every day”—she visibly cringed.

Which, by the way, was a great reaction to see from a health care professional.

She passively advised me, “Okay, that’s fine, but just try to keep it to two cups. And make sure you drink them before noon.” I responded, “Oh yes, of course,” even though those two cups usually turn into three or four and I almost regularly surrender to a mid-day pick-me-up.

Though this encounter didn’t change my caffeine usage, it made me question it a little.

When I wake up every morning, that first cup of coffee is one of the first things on my mind. Do I have time to brew some before class? Or do I need to stop at Olmsted café? As sad as it sounds, I’ll often plan my morning around it.

Once I started my coffee habit—I was probably in seventh grade—it basically became a point of no return. Even when I get nine or ten hours of sleep, I still drink at least one cup of coffee the next morning.

I mean, yes, I like how coffee tastes. I guess that factors into my frequent decision to drink a cup of it, but I also drink it because it’s simply a part of my routine.

If I’m being honest, it doesn’t really “wake me up” all that much. If anything, it gives me a feeling of comfort, it helps me focus, and  it wards off the biting headache I get without it.

I realize how concerning this sounds, but it’s true. I feel downright sluggish without daily caffeine, and I’m not the only one. People drink coffee or energy drinks for an extra jolt of energy, but for some, this desire evolves into dependence.

This is typical of the college lifestyle: as tests and assignments pile up, students don’t get enough sleep and they turn to caffeinated beverages just to make it through the day.

And it’s not like our surroundings are helping. We have four different places to get coffee on campus if you include Hubbell, plus Scooter’s and Mars tauntingly call our names from the edges of campus.

The other day, I noticed a new offering from the C-store: caffeine supplements in pill form. Actual energy-charged capsules. It unsettled me, to say the least. Does it really get that bad?

When I was a high school senior, I wrote a trend analysis report about caffeine intake over the last 50 years. I scoured websites and journals for evidence that coffee is, indeed, a good and healthy thing. Like all things, it’s okay in moderation.

But I found research results about low to moderate caffeine intake that really made me glad: it can increase learning capacity, alertness, and mood.

It was also recently proven to drive a more efficient usage of body fat and blood sugars, which benefits overall physical health.

Even psychologically, coffee has become a direct correlation to productivity. You don’t even have to ingest it: doing homework in a coffee shop, for example, can often make me feel like I’m getting a lot of work done.

I guess my nurse’s main concern was that my caffeine intake would negatively affect my sleep schedule.

But honestly, at this point, I can toss back a cup o’ joe at 10:00 p.m., finish the paper I’m working on, and conk out as soon as my head hits my pillow.

There are actual health issues involved, though, and I know that my nurse was just trying to be preventative.

Caffeine is a dehydrator, and it can seriously mess up your digestive system. And if you really drink a lot, you can experience irregular heartbeat and high blood pressure. I don’t think I’m quite at that point yet . . . let’s hope I don’t get there anytime soon.

Until then, I’ll keep filling up my thermos. Cheers!

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