In regards to health benefits and costs, few items have invited such contention as caffeine and its effects.

And so, for many years, as reports favoring one side of the other pour in, some would say a certain stigma has arisen regarding coffee.

Well, here’s the latest.

Registered dietitian nutritionist Stacie Ellis said in an email that, despite misconceptions, coffee is actually very healthy.

“It is recommended that we drink three to five cups a day to get the most benefit,” Ellis said. “Many people think that it is unhealthy to have coffee because of the caffeine, but the amount of caffeine in regular coffee is not too high to cause any issues.”

She said the only concerns revolve around non-regular drinkers who are not used to coffee, and who may experience an increased heart rate. Even so, many can attest to other side effects.

Nursing freshman Abigail Truelove said to keep her energy up throughout the day, she drinks one or two cups a day, but finds if she drinks too much sometimes, she gets shaky.

“One thing with coffee is that you get that crash after a little bit,” Truelove said. “You feel great, and then you don’t feel so great.”

She also said caffeine takes water out of the body, so it can perpetuate dehydration. In the past, when she wouldn’t limit herself, she said she would experience withdrawals to coffee. She would get headaches and feel “brain foggy.” Today, she does not experience such symptoms.

Truelove said her old coffee habits would come with a price tag.

“I used to spend so much money on coffee,” she said. “I would probably spend like $30-40 a week on coffee. So, now I’m broke. So, I go for the classic coffee pot. I haven’t been to Starbucks in a while.”

Truelove said she imagines over-consumption could lead to over-stimulation, as caffeine is a stimulant. She thinks long-term use could affect organs and the brain.

As an alternative to coffee, Truelove said she would suggest tea, getting more sleep and getting on a better schedule.

“I feel like being on a routine helps me a lot,” Truelove said. “Just make the commitment to go to bed when you’re going to go to bed, and wake up when you’re going to — that sort of thing.”

Environmental science sophomore Mai Dinh said she drinks Vietnamese ice coffee, which she described as “so strong,” when she has a nearby test or a lot of stuff to finish.

“You, literally, drip it and then put it in condensed milk,” Dinh said. “So, it’s sugar on strong caffeine mixed together.”

She said when she drinks it, she often shakes, so she tries not to drink it all at once. One cup can last her all day.

A 2016 Washington Post article said a growing body of research supports the theory that a person’s genetic makeup plays a key role in how food, including coffee, affects the body, and that the impact can be different for individuals. For this reason, scientist have begun to grow suspicious of the one-size-fits-all approach, even about coffee. The same report said, for example, those who metabolize coffee slowly may be at higher risk of hypertension and cardiac arrest with the more coffee they drink.

Biology sophomore Tam Huynh said he does not drink coffee, because he does not want to depend on it. Instead, he takes naps. Sometimes, he skips classes.

“You just gotta skip some classes, like, you have to pick and choose,” Huynh said. “You know, ‘this class is not as hard as this one, so I’m not going to show up to this one, but I’m going to make it up later.’ That’s how I handle it.”

Computer science freshman Derick Pin said he relies on the non-consumable.

“A daily dose of memes keep me running through the day,” Pin said.

Alejandro Santamaria, business and real estate junior, said staying active increases energy.

“If your lifestyle is just to be studying and go to sleep, then that's what you’re used to,” Santamaria said. “But, if you wake up early, and then go to the gym, and then go to school and make that a lifestyle, then it’s not going to be as hard for you stay active and be able to study longer.”

He also said to take cognitive enhancers, which range from vitamins to dark chocolate.

Ellis said, in general for regular drinkers, coffee can decrease blood pressure over time and reduce risks of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and several types of cancers, as well improve cognitive function as they age and provide alertness.

For those who remain wary of coffee, she suggests several teas, including black and green. She also said to try and increase the amount of sleep they get. Also, diets are very important.

“If you increase your consumption of fruits and vegetables, it will help your energy level dramatically,” Ellis said. “The minimum amount of fruit and vegetables we are to have a day is five servings. Two from fruit and three from vegetables. But, really, we should try to aim for the higher end of 13 servings a day if we want to be super healthy.”

She said most Americans barely get the five servings in and, therefore, are not getting the vitamins and minerals they need to convert their food into energy.

“There is no wonder why they are so tired.”

@ZacharyS_

features-editor.shorthorn@uta.edu

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