April 9, 2012

WELLNESS: Decoding the Caffeine Craze

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Ah, Caffeine. One of the few drugs left that people will not smirk at you for taking (because you get snotty looks now for pretty much everything else: too much sugar, fatty foods, processed fast foods, cigarettes, alcohol, etc).

Also, one of those beautiful things in nature that happens to be readily available for fairly reasonable prices. It’s the world’s most used psychoactive drug, and consumed by 90% of Americans every day.

Caffeine, as you probably know by now, is present in more than just coffee. Most any tea will have it, as does chocolate, iced tea, energy drinks, and most soft drinks. While most of us students have developed a strong tolerance to it over our multiple sleepless nights, it is advisable to not consume many caffeine-rich products after dinnertime to ensure quality, restful sleep. After all, no matter how much caffeine you take, your brain will not do much on little sleep. It just won’t.

Caffeine works by antagonizing adenosine receptors in the brain, which, amongst other things, helps your brain get into the groove for going to sleep. Caffeine blocks this messenger system, which allows your body to keep itself awake longer. Eventually, of course, your body will want to sleep, but it takes some time for that to happen–an approximate time of 4.9 hours.

Other cool facts about caffeine:

It takes about 45 minutes for the coffee you take in the morning to be digested by your intestine and sent to the rest of your body. So if you want the caffeine punch in the morning, consider it will probably hit you by second period, not first.

Starbucks grew in popularity not by merely good marketing. Their coffee, at 16.9mg of caffeine per fluid ounce of coffee, beats the generic 13.2 mg/oz of other coffees around.

FDA regulations have stipulated a maximum amount of caffeine of 65mg per 12 ounces. There are, however, easy ways to get around that: people sell more caffeine by making bigger containers or selling more liquid- which has been done- or doing it the other way around, placing as much caffeine per ounce as possible -the source of energy shots, probably.

5150 juice, or the hardcore version of an energy drink, is 32 ounces of pure caffeine (we’re talking 500mg/oz here, compared to the 17 in Starbucks coffee from two points ago), is sold  as to place in any drink to make it an energy drink (and save tons of money in the process). I have no idea where to get it, but there you go.

Don’t be fooled: it would take 120 cans of Red Bull (as opposed to 70 cups of coffee) to kill someone from a caffeine overdose. Then again, you probably still shouldn’t try.

So there! A few nice facts to go over your wonderful cup of coffe in the morning. Enjoy, and make sure to not take in excess–after all, the joys of sleep are always underrated.

Ana Florencia Lopezulloa is an alumna. She may be reached at fulloa@cornellsun.com. The Missing Link: Wellness appears on Tuesdays.

Original Author: Florencia Ulloa