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What are the pros and cons of your daily coffee break? The West Side Story takes a look at the effects of caffeine. BY MARY VANDER WEG WSS INTERN


t’s almost midnight and you’ve had a busy day of school, work and extracurricular activities. You’re pretty tired and in dire need of some sleep, but there’s one problem: you still haven’t started your homework. So instead of lying down and dozing off, you reach for your backpack and, to keep you alert, some caffeine. “I do believe caffeine is a problem among teenagers. It causes several health issues,” said Samuel Kinzer, pediatrician. “Too many kids are using caffeine regularly.” Caffeine is a chemical compound found in various plants, which acts as a stimulant for the central nervous system. It is most commonly found in coffee, tea, soda, chocolate, energy drinks and some overthe-counter medications. For science teacher Marianne McGrane, coffee is a necessary aspect for daily life. “When I’m feeling tired or grumpy, I reach for a pot of coffee to cope,” McGrane said. The Food and Drug Administration states that caffeine is both a drug and a food additive, but the organization does not yet have formal recommendations for consumption. Healthy adults can generally consume 300 to

400 milligrams without any negative side effects, but teenagers need to be more wary. Due to the importance of brain development and sleep regularity, teenagers should consume no more than 100 milligrams of caffeine a day. But too often, that line is not drawn. “I drink at least three cups a day,” said Mary Stanley ’19 who, like many others, drinks caffeine to keep awake. “I just really like caffeine,” she said. A survey conducted by the Beaumont Health System noted that 11 percent of teenagers aged 13 to 18 drink at least 400 milligrams of caffeine a day, which is equivalent to more than four espressos, two 5-Hour Energy drinks or five Red Bulls. This extensive amount can lead to some serious problems. “There are many negatives that come along with drinking a lot of caffeine,” Kinzer said. Common symptoms of excess caffeine consumption are jitters, anxious feelings, headaches, fatigue and problems with withdrawal. With those who are more dependent, symptoms can include faster heartbeat, reflux, risk of obesity and bowel problems. “I noticed one student whose hands were


shaking because they were drinking a lot of caffeine,” McGrane said. “I don’t pay much attention to my students drinking caffeine, but I probably should.” Caffeine, though dangerous if consumed too often, has its positives. With teenagers staying up at night to study for their next exam, it can improve alertness and reaction times to keep them functioning the next day. “I like that it makes you really energetic, and if you’re used to it, you aren’t affected,” Stanley said. “It helps because I’m really lazy.” “We do have to remember the positives of caffeine,” Kinzer said. “It has health benefits such as helping those with ADHD and narcolepsy.” So how can you still keep alert while avoiding all of those negative side effects? The answer lies in moderation. “If your use of caffeine is affecting you negatively, decrease your intake,” Kinzer said. “You don’t have to go cold turkey. Just try to gradually decrease consumption.” FOR MORE COVERAGE, GO TO WSSPAPER.COM


2015 12 18 issue  
2015 12 18 issue