Lifestyle + Thoughts

Coffee’s Benefits Cancel out Its Drawbacks

“A skinny caramel macchiato with one pump toffee nut, one pump vanilla, please.”

“I’ll have a grande coffee, make it black.”

“Uh, can I just have a double shot of espresso? I don’t have time for a nap.”

As a barista and avid coffee drinker, all of these orders come out of my mouth one too many times a week. Any coffee addict knows how it is.

You wake up hoping that there is still coffee left in the pot. If there isn’t, you’ll take the grade deduction for being late to class. There comes point in your life when you move from coffee drinks that taste like chocolate milk laced with Ritalin to hardcore black coffee that screams you won’t be sleeping tonight. You’re sitting in the library when 2 p.m. rolls around and the temptation to nap takes precedence over studying. Do you dare leave your prime spot at the library with the chance someone will take it? Or do you put your trust in your fellow students not to steal your things while you get a cup of joe?

For some, coffee is the closest thing to an addiction in their lives. In no way am I intending to downgrade the seriousness of actual addictions, but the addiction to coffee is rapidly increasing. Just like most addictions, this one comes with its own unique withdrawal and overdose symptoms. Suddenly you stopped your morning intake of coffee and now you’re feeling sleepy, have constant headaches, are irritable and have a lack of concentration.

You are most likely suffering from caffeine withdrawal. Unlike other stimulants, you can start to feel the effects of this withdrawal fairly quickly, sometimes as soon as 12 to 24 hours after your last intake. This is why that first cup in the morning is crucial for some, because it wards off the soon-to-be withdrawal effects. Although it’s unlikely, you can overdose from taking in too much caffeine. To kill you, it would take about an excess of 5 grams of caffeine. The average cup of coffee has about 60-100 mg of caffeine, so death is very unlikely.

Most people are unaware that caffeine is a drug. In fact, caffeine is the world’s most widely used psychoactive substance because it works and works quickly. Unlike many other drugs, it’s used as a productivity tool. Additionally, the caffeine in coffee can create a sense of heightened mental quickness. The brain is responsible for this result. We all have something called the “blood-brain barrier.” The blood-brain barrier prevents bacteria, viruses and most drugs from entering the brain – except for caffeine. “Once inside the nervous system, caffeine is believed to plug up the receptors of adenosine, a neuromodulator that acts like a brake on nerve cells firing their messages across synapses.” With those receptors blocked, the brain’s own stimulants, dopamine and glutamate, can do their work more freely. More simply put by Stephen R. Braun, “Caffeine’s power is like putting a block of wood under one of the brain’s primary brake pedals.”

Since we know it’s an actual drug, what makes us come back for more? Just a shot in the darkness of my coffee mug, caffeine most likely has a thing or two to do with it. But there are many more things to love about coffee. The smell. The habitual preparation. The taste. The jolt of energy in the morning. When your barista has mastered the skill of “latte art.” The perfect balance between coffee and creamer.

I have fallen under all of these spells. “Whatever, coffee is good for you” is what I use to justify my mild addiction. My favorite relationship I have right now is between myself and my coffee mug. For most, the benefits of coffee greatly overpower the drawbacks. Not just the benefits as to why you love it so much, but benefits it has on your body.

Individuals with heart diseases or diabetes should grab a cup of coffee, because according to a large 2012 study, coffee will extend your life expectancy. Coffee has also been shown to reduce the risk of prostate cancer by 20 percent in men who consume at least six or more cups a day. And women, good news! If you’re drinking four cups or more a day, your risk of getting endometrial cancer is reduced by 25 percent. Coffee can also make you less-stressed from lack of sleep, sharper and overall happier with life. It has been shown that the more coffee you drink, the less likely you are to suffer from depression. In both Parkinson’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders, depression is a common symptom, but coffee can have protective effects against this.

So to all you coffee drinkers, keep doin’ your thang – drip, espresso, Keurig, French Press or however you like it. Keep on standing in line at your favorite coffee shop hoping one day the barista will get your order right and remember your name. It’s been around for centuries, so why stop now?

*note – this article was originally written by Claire Wieger and published in the Daily Nebraskan.

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