The Dangers of Caffeine

Caffeine. Do you know how much is too much?

With school starting up again soon, many students may turn to caffeine to help them wake up in the morning in time for their classes and to keep them awake at night as they work on that project that they procrastinated on and is due the next day. Caffeine can be found in coffee, tea, energy drinks, food, and medications. In Canada, coffee is the most commonly consumed drink for Canadians aged 16 and over. Being so popular, caffeine may seem harmless. However, consuming too much can lead to consequences.

Caffeine is a stimulant drug. It is closely shaped like the molecule adenosine, a chemical that binds to receptors in the brain and makes you feel tired. Caffeine is a competitive inhibitor. It attaches to these receptors and blocks off the adenosine, preventing the feeling of tiredness for a few hours by permitting the brain’s stimulants to continue to work uninterrupted. Caffeine tolerance occurs when the brain makes more receptors in an attempt to regain balance, which means that the amount of caffeine consumed before will not have as much of an effect on alertness.

For youth 13 and older, the maximum recommended daily intake of caffeine is 2.5 mg per kilogram of body weight, according to Health Canada. Consuming more than this amount can lead to jitters, headaches, insomnia, rapid heart rate, upset stomach, frequent urination, dehydration, increased blood pressure, and even death in extreme cases (often from caffeine pills or energy drinks). Some energy drinks contain more caffeine in a single can than the recommended daily allowance for some people!

If you find that you are consuming too much caffeine, there are ways to decrease consumption.

You can replace highly caffeinated drinks with beverages that contain less or no caffeine, such as replacing carbonated drinks with caffeine-free versions, or replacing coffee with half- or decaffeinated coffee or with tea (which has a lot less caffeine than coffee). You can also shorten the brew time of tea or replace caffeinated tea with herbal tea.

Most importantly, you should get enough sleep so that you do not need to rely on caffeine to keep you awake. Try to go to sleep early enough to wake up refreshed in the morning. Don’t leave schoolwork unfinished until the last minute so that you do not have to stay up until the wee hours of morning to complete it. Nothing can replace proper sleep, not even caffeine.


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