As the end of the school year approaches, many high school students may already be stressing over midterm or finals preparation and could be turning to various sources of energy to pull the greatest “all-nighters” known to man.
In a world full of trends, there’s one that high school students may not be paying attention to — and no, it’s not from TikTok.
It’s caffeine consumption.
As high schoolers begin getting into a flow to ace their exams, some may find that said “flow” includes a decent consumption of caffeinated beverages, particularly coffee, to get through the day.
Chad Crisostomo, a high school senior from California, noted that he began drinking coffee his junior year as a way to keep up with his busy schedule.
“I thought about drinking coffee because I needed a stimulant to wake me up and/or keep me awake to finish whatever I was doing,” he said.
“Junior year is known as to be the hardest year of high school especially if you do a time consuming sport,” Crisostomo added. “I took three APs and one honors [class] my junior year while also juggling basketball, [which included] morning workouts and practices after school four times of the week.”
Though there are few studies that accurately portray the impact of coffee on high school students, the ones that do paint a mixed picture. While it may prove helpful in some instances, coffee ultimately does more harm than good for teens later in life, and there are notable effects of caffeine that students and parents should take note of.
Before diving into the dangers of caffeine consumption, it should be noted that there are some benefits to indulging in a cup of joe every once in a while.
The main reason students consume caffeine in the first place is to stay awake, and caffeine has proven to aid in disrupting fatigue and keeping students focused on tasks at hand. There are also some major health benefits later in life, particularly the reduced risk of cardiovascular, liver and neurological diseases, according to a 2020 report from the New England Journal of Medicine.
In a study done to analyze the impacts of coffee and caffeine on blood pressure, the authors of the report stated, “... no substantial effect on blood pressure was found in trials of caffeinated coffee, even among persons with hypertension, possibly because other components of coffee … counteract the blood-pressure–raising effect of caffeine.” The report also noted, “Coffee and caffeine consumption have also been associated with reduced risks of depression.” The Food and Drug Administration says that adults who consume 4-5 cups of coffee, a total of 400 milligrams, will not feel adverse effects.
Despite the benefits that come later in life, there are still valid risks to consuming coffee for students. One of the main risks of drinking coffee later in the day is a lack of sleep, which is vital to a student’s success in the classroom. The FDA noted that “it can take four to six hours for your body to metabolize half of what you consumed,” meaning that consuming coffee in the evening will keep you up longer than anticipated.
Various studies have also reported more adverse effects, including hypertension, nausea and osteoporosis. Additionally, the aforementioned 2020 report stated, “[C]caffeine can induce anxiety, particularly at high doses (>200 mg per occasion or >400 mg per day) and in sensitive persons, including those with anxiety or bipolar disorders.”
Crisostomo began to notice some negative effects as he continued drinking coffee. While it does taste good and keeps him awake, he noted how it affected his appetite.
“I have to think about the next time I’m going to eat,” he said. “I don’t want to drink coffee right before a meal or else my appetite will be shot.”
He is also aware of the risks of becoming dependent on caffeine, including negative effects related to brain development, and he has changed his habits as a senior.
“I try not to drink coffee as much as I used to before,” he said. “I still drink it only when I’m really tired. Usually I would drink it in the morning on my drive to school to keep me awake on the road. Other than that though, I would drink other caffeinated drinks such as tea and energy drinks.”
After recognizing the adverse effects of energy drinks, though, Crisostomo stuck with coffee and tea, drinking both in moderation to get through his day. Still, he advises fellow high school students that caffeine is not the solution to all of their study problems.
“It’s hard to tell you ‘Do not get into caffeine,’ but when it’s 1 or 2 a.m. and you’re at your desk sitting in front of the impossible math problem set, I understand that you need something to get you through,” he said. “I am okay with drinking a little bit of coffee in the morning to kick start my day but turning to caffeine to get through studies will not help you at all in the long run. Having a healthy diet—feeding your body the right fuel to function and provide oxygen to your blood—is the best caffeine you can consume. Coupling that with a good workout routine to get the blood moving is also an excellent way to clear your mind. As an athlete, I can attest to this. There’s so many ‘what if’ situations in regards to how late you stay up in your studies but my biggest advice is to stay away from it. You’ll feel so much better without it and it’ll help your health in the long term.”