Words by Hallie Saculla
Photo by Samantha Ickes

While most mornings begin with a cup of coffee, the effects of the caffeinated beverage are generally not considered. Many feel the positives outweigh the negatives. However, habitual intake of caffeine can surface health challenges.

According to Authority Nutrition’s website, “Caffeine is a natural stimulant most commonly found in tea, coffee and cacao plants. It works by stimulating the brain and central nervous system, helping you to stay alert and preventing the onset of tiredness.”

Megan Brzuski, the Kent State campus dietician, says there is no nutritional need for the body to have caffeine. Caffeine is solely used by choice among individuals.

About one 8 fl oz can of Red Bull Energy Drink contains 80 mg of caffeine, which is about the same amount of caffeine found in a cup of coffee. A daily intake of over 400 mg of caffeine can negatively impact an individual’s health in a variety of ways.

While a caffeine intake does not cause health issues, it can bring to surface predisposed health concerns, some of which everyone is subject to. Moderate caffeine intake is not a negative thing unless an individual experiences the side effects of the stimulant at a heightened level.

“A high consumption of caffeine can cause heart palpitations, spike blood pressure over 63 percent, increase anxiety, disturb sleeping patterns, increase loss of calcium and increase heartburn,” says Armon Shayesteh, local nutritionist, dietitian and founder of Dr. Fit for Life.

Shayesteh also says that coffee can cause dehydration. When individuals are dehydrated, they can feel fatigue which prevents the intention of drinking a cup of coffee to feel alert.

For those who fall into a dependency on the energy given by caffeine, Shayesteh warns that the rush of alertness they feel is not authentic; it is merely a temporary boost that will leave consumers feeling more lethargic than prior to the drink.

“Drinking a cup or two of coffee in the morning can leave someone feeling pleasantly energized, but an hour later, that person will suddenly crash and need double the caffeine to keep the same energy level,” Shayesteh says. “As a result, you become dependent on caffeine to stay awake, and too much of caffeine isn’t healthy.”

Additionally, when mixed with alcohol, caffeine can be deadly. Caffeine prevents the feeling of being intoxicated. Combining an energy drink with an alcoholic drink inhibits feeling the effects of being intoxicated causing one to keep drinking past a safe limit.

While the negative side effects of caffeine are evident, Deanna Lavanty, a dietician and Kent State instructor in the School of Health Sciences, says the substance may offer health benefits.

“Unprocessed coffee beans contain approximately 1,000 antioxidants, and 300 more are created during the roasting process,” she says. “Antioxidants help prevent tissue damage from free radicals, and tissue damage may lead cardiovascular disease and cancer.”

Lavanty also says studies revealed that coffee drinkers are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, type two diabetes and Parkinson’s disease.

Most individuals consume caffeine to heighten alertness and energy levels; however, the only way to feel a natural, healthy amount of energy is to live a healthy lifestyle and get seven and a half to eight hours of sleep each night.

The human body functions best when it receives all the nutrients it needs. A diet of whole, unprocessed foods low in sugar will provide your body with substantial energy throughout the day.

If in need of a quick energy boost, physical activity will increase liveliness. Engaging in physical activity may also help one sleep better which will also increase energy in the morning.

“Do not look for a magic pill to make you feel awake and energized,” Lavanty says. “Treat your body well every day with good nutrition, exercise and sleep, and you will find that you won’t need caffeine or other stimulants to get you through the day.”

For more information, contact University Health Services.

Hallie Saculla is the fitness and recreation reporter for The Burr.