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Caffeine is an inevitable staple in any student’s diet. Early mornings are more doable after that cup of joe. Late night study sessions are enabled by your caffeine obsession, and hangovers are (slightly) more bearable after that warm cuppa. We are being bred into fully fledged adults with unquestionable coffee obsessions.

But what do we really know about coffee, and should we really be drinking it?

It is hard to find a person who has remained unexposed to the substance throughout their entire life.

An estimated 2 billion caffeinated drinks are consumed each day, and appropriately, research into the effects of caffeine is abundant.

Caffeine has the ability to improve memory, athletic performance, metabolism, mood, attention and general cognitive function. But how does it do all of this?

When caffeine is consumed, it is immediately absorbed into the bloodstream. The caffeine binds to adenosine which is an inhibitory neurotransmitter. When caffeine is absent and there is no other molecule blocking the adenosine it signals for our nervous system to slow down; making us feel tired. But when caffeine binds to adenosine, it is blocking this activity, preventing the molecule from being able to slow down the nervous system. Consequently our neurons fire quicker, and we feel more awake.

Sorry to ruin the magic.

Studies show that caffeine helps to consolidate learning, whether this is through increasing your attention to improve your ability to learn or improves the recall of memory later is unknown. Regardless of which method it affects consolidation of learning, sleep is just as useful, so when caffeine is affecting your sleep, these effects cancel each other out.

The amount of time it takes for half of the coffee consumed to be broken down by the body is 6 hours, so drinking caffeine after a certain point in the day (midday) is likely to be affecting your sleep and thus your consolidation of what you have learnt that day. So maybe stick to caffeine in the morning if you find it affecting your sleep.

A coffee sitting in sunlight
A MORNING Brew.

Not only can coffee improve your grades, it might just make you live longer too! Let’s just cut to the chase and call it the miracle drink. One particular study has shown that here is a proportional association between the amount of coffee a person consumes and their reduced risk of dying from a collection of different diseases, including; diabetes, heart disease and strokes.

Within the 14 year study period, men who consumed between two to six cups of coffee a day had a 10% reduced risk of dying, and women had a 15% reduced risk of dying from these named diseases. Although these findings sound great and may already have you reaching for that coffee cup, it is important to highlight that only an association has been found between coffee consumption and reduced risk of dying. This means that the coffee may not actually be the factor causing this reduced risk of dying, but just that it is correlated.

Studying the effects of coffee can be difficult. It is hard to find a person who has remained unexposed to the substance throughout their entire life. Perhaps you have not drank coffee, but it is unlikely that you have also never had chocolate, tea, even certain brands of pain relievers or any of the many other substances containing caffeine which you may be unaware of.

An estimated 2 billion caffeinated drinks are consumed each day, and appropriately, research into the effects of caffeine is abundant.

This makes it difficult to study the difference between the complete absences of caffeine and caffeine exposure. Additionally, individuals who drink coffee are also statistically more likely to eat less healthy foods, drink more alcohol and exercise less regularly; these would all present as confounding variables to any associations found.

All of the named benefits attributed to caffeine depend upon the amount consumed. Too much caffeine negates from the benefits. It is recommended that the daily limit for men should not exceed 400mg (6 cups), and for women 300mg (4 cups). Basically, like everything else, drinking coffee within moderation shows some pretty good benefits, just don’t drink too much.

Well now how about a tea focused article where Tash Ebbutt describes why we love the taste of tea!

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