By Gabrielle Rente
Elm Staff Writer
One the great changes that comes with entering college life is coffee. If you weren’t an avid coffee drinker before college, then you probably are now. At Washington College, we have Java George and Sophie’s Café where students can be found in the early hours of the morning waiting for a cup of joe. This common beverage has integrated heavily into our society, where many people have wooden signs in their kitchen, reading phrases like “With enough caffeine, I could rule the world.” My own roommate just hung up a sign in our room reading, “No coffee, no workee.”
Surely a drink held in such high admiration must have some downfalls besides your hyper roommate keeping you up at night, and as it turns out there are some pros and cons to drinking coffee.
Pro: Caffeine keeps you awake. While this may seem obvious, how does coffee energize us? The chemical composition of caffeine resembles adenosine, a purine nucleoside associated with sleep and relaxation of blood vessels. Over the course of a day, adenosine slowly accumulates in the brain causing fatigue, but when you consume caffeine it binds to adenosine receptors on nerve cells, giving us that caffeine buzz we love.
Con: Caffeine headaches. Eventually we build up a tolerance to caffeine, meaning we require more to feel the effect of it. If we don’t consume caffeine over an extended period of time, then we get headaches caused by constricted blood vessels in the brain.
Pro: Improves cognitive function. Caffeine stimulates the production of adrenaline, the fight or flight hormone, which increases your heart rate, opens your airways, and gets the blood pumping. Not only that, but it improves your mood by preventing the re-absorption of dopamine into the bloodstream. Studies have shown that because of these effects, caffeine improves memory and ability to focus.
Con: Increases stress levels. Caffeine also stimulates the release of stress hormones also related to the “fight or flight” response: cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. These hormones also affect the digestion process as the additional stress diverts the body’s resources to preparing for a potential threat.
Pro: May prevent disease. Studies have found the antioxidants in coffee can slow the progress of Alzhimer’s disease. Not only that, but since caffeine blocks adenosine, that chemical compound that is related to sleep, it can stave off dementia. Adenosine can start a reaction chain eventually leading to dementia.
Con: Pesticides. Since coffee derives from the industrial coffee bean, the plant is often sprayed with pesticides. To avoid consuming these toxins, organic coffee is highly recommended.
Pro: Insulin boost. Another point goes to those wonderful antioxidants, specifically cholorogenic acid and quinides, as they increase cells’ sensitivity to insulin, which helps regulate blood sugar, however, this is only in decaffeinated coffee, since caffeine blunts insulin-sensitivity.
Con: Six hour delay. Coffee has a half-life of six hours, so if you consume the regular amount of 150mg of caffeine that is found in coffee, then it would take six hours for there to be 75mg left in your system. Another six hours later, and there is only 37.5 mg, resulting in you feeling fatigued and reaching for another cup throughout the day. Be careful and don’t drink before bedtime.
Coffee is a great way to gain energy in a little amount of time. It’s sweet and delicious, and I personally enjoy a cup of Café con Leche in the mornings every so often. However it is important to keep in mind the effects it has on the body. To all my fellow coffee lovers out there: drink mindfully.