At early hours, hundreds of students across campus can be seen flocking to Starbucks, Hillside Caf, Connections and Pura Vida, braving long lines to get one thing: coffee. This simple drink is the drive that fuels most bleary-eyed students through a hard day of classes, especially if they have been up late the night before. A survey of 10 random students across campus revealed that each drinks at least one cup of coffee a day, and upwards of half said they drink at least two cups or more. Veteran coffee drinkers spout off a long, complex list of specifications like a sugar-free vanilla skim latt with an extra shot, while some stick to a simple small hazelnut. It can be easily surmised that most students can’t envision a day without some dose of the bean.

Being a coffee aficionado myself, it came as a surprise to me when I found out that coffee comes with a laundry list of extensive bad side effects. The most recent finding was this past week, when CNN released an expos on how coffee raises blood sugar levels. Now, this may be overlooked by a handful of people who do not really care about what their glucose level was to begin with, but it is a point of concern for those people who are health-conscious and especially those who may have diabetes.

CNN showed “10 types of people who are habitual coffee drinkers.” They found that four eight-ounce cups of caffeinated black coffee per day increased their subjects’ average glucose level from 133 mg/dl to 144 mg/dl. While the increase in glucose level is moderate, this news may be a crushing blow to those whose every milligram of blood sugar raised counts toward their overall well-being.

Coffee is a drug, whether the masses who like to drink it admit it or not. Its main component, caffeine, is what gives it the kick that so many people need. It is addictive and, when consumed in mass quantities, can be toxic. Withdrawal causes side effects such as headaches, tremors and dizziness. It also has a global effect, meaning it influences all body tissues, including muscle.

“Drinking a cup of coffee stimulates the central nervous system and prompts the adrenal glands to release adrenaline, one of two hormones released in response to stress. Your heart beats faster, glucose is released into the blood stream and you feel energized,” Anthony Haynes, a nutritionist at the Nutrition Clinic in London’s Harley Street, explained. “In the short term you feel revived, but over time this repeated stress response frazzles the adrenal glands, while the liver becomes conditioned to metabolize caffeine more quickly, meaning you’ll need even more cups of coffee to get the same lift.”

Now, most of you are thinking, “Well, one cup of coffee can’t do that much harm can it? Especially if I drink it early on in the day?”

Wrong.

Even if you drink only one cup early in the day, caffeine is still at work in your system hours later. A recent study at the Duke University Medical Center found that levels of adrenaline and noradrenaline remained elevated at night even when subjects had slurped their last cup of coffee at lunchtime – in effect, mimicking 24-hour stress.

Coffee has other drawbacks as well.

“Coffee is an anti-nutrient,” Haynes said. “It hampers the absorption of essential minerals including iron, magnesium, zinc and potassium, as well as the B vitamins.”

So, for example, drinking a cup of coffee while eating a hamburger can reduce the amount of iron you absorb by 40 percent, while zinc absorption is reduced if coffee is consumed within an hour after a meal.

Even considering these side effects of just one cup of coffee, I am sure this will not hamper the efforts of die-hard coffee fanatics in reaching desperately for that second and third cup. However, for the rest of us, “Tea anyone?”

Jung is a member of the class of 2011.



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