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Caffeine: The Forgotten Dangers

Updated: Apr 19

Morning coffee, energy drinks, pre-workout, soda (or as it's known where I'm from - "Pop") are as much a part of our days as the food we eat. They are becoming completely ubiquitous in our culture, and it's a trend that's here to stay. In my 7th grade classroom, I see children as young as 12 consume energy drinks and Venti Starbucks orders daily.


We often rely too much on caffeine to maintain the function of our brain, but it has fading effects over time and can harm our brains by negatively impacting sleep.

Lest we forget, caffeine is classified as a drug. It has harmful qualities that people ignore or forget about because of the desirability of its effect. More and more, our culture is falling victim to the ills of overconsumption of caffeine, because we aren't using it to help us get through our day, we are relying on it to do so.


Sleep

The biggest issue with our use of caffeine is the proximity to bedtime we consume it. Obviously, this has harmful effects on our ability to fall asleep, but many people fall asleep but get terrible sleep because of it. If you've heard a friend say "I can drink a coffee and still go right to sleep!" you can bet their sleep quality is in the toilet. The scary part here is the vicious cycle that it creates: Lesser and poorer sleep means being more tired, and being more tired causes people to...


Now, being tired is one problem with sleep loss, but there are a myriad more. Poor sleep quality is linked to elevated risks of just about every ill known to man, from cognitive problems like degenerative brain disorders, depression, and anxiety, all the way to bodily issues like increased body fat, loss of muscle mass, and reduced sex drive.


Anxiety

Even if you're cutting your caffeine early in the day, consuming too much of it can give your mind troubles. High levels of caffeine consumption (>350mg in adults, >100 mg in teens) can lead to bouts of anxiety and irritability. In the realm of anecdotal observation, this seems to be at an all-time high. People are more on-edge, more quick to anger, and more impulsive than ever before.


Fertility issues

Perhaps the most damning of caffeine's potential harmful effects (and that's saying

something on this list) is that it can cause fertility problems in both sexes. Although the research on the topic is largely inconclusive, fertility doctors will typically ask patients trying to achieve pregnancy to limit caffeine intake to below 200mg/day, regardless of sex. For women, excess caffeine has links to issues becoming pregnant and miscarriage, while for men it is linked to motility issues with sperm, preventing pregnancy.


Frequent, sometimes uncontrolled urination

Many of us have experienced the immediate effect of coffee on our morning bowel movement, and much of this effect comes from caffeine. Caffeine causes a concentration of your urine that induces more sessions of going to the restroom. That's all well and good I suppose, but most of us, however, would be disturbed to learn that caffeine can create the inability to stop ourselves from going numero uno. Yes, that is correct, drinking too much caffeine can induce incontinence. In other words, it impairs your ability to stop yourself from peeing, and can lead to your dripping into your unmentionables. As with most of these negative effects, these are possible when consuming excess caffeine, somewhere north of 350 mg/day for most individuals.


Increased blood pressure

One of the reason caffeine works the way it does is because it is a vasoconstrictor. This feature is the cause of some of the benefits of caffeine, but can also be the culprit in creating a lot of problems. Chronic rises in blood pressure can lead to arteries losing their elasticity, which impairs their ability to transport blood throughout your body. The long-term effects of this can be catastrophic, and reduce your lifespan significantly.


Conclusion

Caffeine's status within our culture can cause it's greatest drawbacks. Our growing admiration of and dependence on this drug to make it through our day projects to many long-term health problems that people take for granted or don't even know about. In relatively small doses (<100 mg/day), it's effects are greatly reduced. Caffeine should be treated with more respect for the power it holds and the dangers it can cause. By all means, enjoy your caffeine, but do so with boundaries in mind and awareness of how it can negatively affect you if misused.

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