Coffee has always been one of the most popular drinks among people of all ages. Whether iced or hot, people can find coffee just about anywhere for a relatively low price. In addition, some companies offer fun flavors like pumpkin or peppermint during the fall and winter seasons to attract additional customers. Some people drink it for the taste, while others drink it for the caffeine and energy.
As a stimulant, caffeine increases brain activity and results in high alertness, even after just a few sips. Caffeine is known to energize the human body and is an especially popular choice among high school and college students who need help waking up in the morning or staying awake at night. However, many health professionals question how safe caffeine truly is for young developing brains, conducting countless studies to expose the truth of the effects of caffeine.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, adolescents should consume no more than 100 mg of caffeine per day, which may sound like a lot, but a standard 8oz cup of coffee contains around 95 mg of caffeine. Studies have shown that caffeine can leave students exhausted after the initial spike of focus and energy, and some people can’t go a day without it without experiencing headaches. Doctors also recommend that kids under 12 should not have any caffeinated drinks at all. These consumption limitations could shed some light on the actual effects of caffeine.
Another study was conducted with rats, and the effect caffeine had on their developing brain. The rats given caffeine showed delayed brain development and decreased motor activities after the initial energy and activity spike. However, the rats in the study who did not have caffeine displayed steady brain development and normal levels of motor activity.
While coffee is very popular, some students don’t like the taste or prefer not to drink it because of caffeine. However, coffee is not the only caffeinated drink offered at school cafeterias. Iced teas, hot teas, sodas, and other beverages also contain large amounts of caffeine that affect the brain as coffee does. After surveying many RHS students, 71% consume a caffeinated beverage regularly. While this is under the national average of 83.2%, this is still a large percentage of students.
Luckily, there are many alternatives to caffeine that will give students the energy needed to make it through the day or night while also eliminating the side effects of caffeine that will leave students needing more. Bananas, oranges, quinoa, eggs, and spinach, to name a few, function as excellent substitutes and give the body a similar amount of fuel as caffeine. So, while coffee can be safe in small amounts, better alternatives will have fewer side effects and more productive and focused students overall.
Graphic: Jiah Lee