Written by: Mutshidzi Kwinda
I remember well the first day I started drinking coffee. I was in my sophomore year at pharmacy school and had intended to cross the night studying for a pharmaceutical chemistry quarterly test. What I remember by that night was having a brain that was uncontrollably alert but not useful. I became agitated, nauseous, anxious, and nervous to a point that I couldn’t even look at my books. Not only did I perform poorly in the test but I also felt like I could not function properly for the next 24 hours or so until my system was cleared of all the gallons of caffeine I drank that night. 3 years later, a friend of mine convinced me to taste her favorite coffee and since then, I have developed a special bond with it. Not only do I drink coffee while doing some work. But also, just for the taste of it. It has also become one of the things I look forward to when I wake up in the morning. But whether you enjoy coffee or drink it to get through the day. Like most things in life it has its pro’s and cons.
What is caffeine?
As someone who has studied drugs and how they work, I know very well that coffee is not just a drink that helps you gain some strong motivation to wake up or do your work. It is more than that. According to the oxford medical dictionary, caffeine is an alkaloid drug present in coffee and tea that has a stimulant action, particularly on the central nervous system (consisting of the brain and spinal cord and controls the most functions of the body and mind).
Pros of caffeine
It is important to note that not all of the following benefits of caffeine have been confirmed by scientific research. The benefits of caffeine may include but are not limited to:
- Improved memory and cognitive function.
- Decreased fatigue.
- Improved mental functioning.
- Promotion of wakefulness.
- Suppresses appetite which can ultimately help with weight loss.
- Reduces the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Cons of caffeine
The disadvantage or side effects of caffeine comes when you consume too much of it at one time. This happens especially if you are just starting (a beginner) to drink coffee, tea, and/or other caffeine-containing beverages (e.g energy drinks). Common side effects that people experience, especially with a moderate-to-high dose of caffeine are:
- Headaches and/or fatigue.
- Nervousness and anxiety.
- Digestive issues (such as diarrhea or constipation).
- Rapid heart rate and high blood pressure.
How much is too much caffeine?
For healthy adults, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends a daily dose of not more than 400mg. This is roughly about 4 standard cups of brewed coffee. It is important to know that the amount of caffeine can also vary with products. The FDA also advises people to be cautious when it comes to powdered coffee. This is because, as noted by Mayo Clinic, “just one teaspoon of powdered caffeine is equivalent to about 28 cups of coffee. Such high levels of caffeine can cause serious health problems and possibly death.”
It is advisable to be cautious when taking caffeine if you suffer from conditions such as heart disease, severe anxiety, peptic ulcers, etc. Also, drinking caffeinated beverages with alcohol is not advisable. Check with your doctor first for advice, especially if you have a chronic illness or if you regularly drink alcohol.