Coffee’s common misconceptions

Coffees common misconceptions

Celine Aubry-Dumand, Editor-in-Chief

A common misconception about coffee is that it causes stunted growth in teenagers. Perhaps one reason for this misconception is that the human brain and body are still developing before adulthood. Though a myth, coffee may still have some effects on teenagers, both good and bad.

Coffee may not be worth drinking for some people, especially considering the downside to drinking coffee, like developing a caffeine addiction or experiencing insomnia. But in some cases, the benefits outweigh the negatives, and heavy coffee drinkers might agree.

“I mainly drink coffee because I love the taste,” Samantha Ault ’16 said. “It wakes me up in the morning, and the caffeine that is in coffee helps me feel more alert even when I didn’t get much sleep the night before. For me personally, the benefits completely outweigh any con that coffee could have on me.”

For teenagers especially, drinking more than three to four cups of coffee per day can interfere with sleep, and likewise, brain development. At the same time, however, drinking coffee in moderation can make coffee drinking no longer a bad habit.

“Caffeine in moderation can have some benefits for teens, including a boost in memory and concentration,” clinical nutritionist Tara Coleman said. “However, because it is addicting, it is really important to understand the side effects before starting to rely on caffeinated beverages.”

The most common side effects include difficulty falling asleep, increased stress, anxiety and headaches.

In general it is okay, according to Coleman, for teens to drink coffee. Teenagers can benefit from drinking coffee before school if they need a mild stimulant to help them stay awake and focus on schoolwork or on another activity. But an excess amount of coffee can cause addiction and missed sleep.

“My mom is Columbian and in Columbia they start drinking coffee at age 10, so we’re big on drinking coffee in my family,” Emmy Dunsford ’18 said. “But I only really drink it if I got six or less hours of sleep the night before or if it is cold in the morning. Also, coffee stains your teeth so I drink it with a straw.”

Apart from feeling alert and wide-awake after a cup of coffee in the morning, drinking coffee has become a social activity, especially among teenagers. Coffee shops are a popular venue for the common late-night study sesh with friends, finishing last minute homework and studying for upcoming tests.

Even for the teens out there who do not get a cup of coffee while at Starbucks or The Coffee Bean, it can be hard to resist the temptation.  

“It is important to consider where the caffeine is coming from,” Coleman said. “Many caffeinated beverages are also high in sugar or artificial sweeteners. As with anything, moderation is key!”

Although some people may not admit it, going to Starbucks, or any coffee shop for that matter, and ordering a coffee-flavored frappuccino is not the same as ordering a cup of coffee. Even though the caffeine acts as a stimulant in the sugar-packed treat and may still have the same effects on a person as straight, black coffee does, the drinks are hardly similar.

“When I go to Starbucks I almost always get a large iced coffee with a little half-and-half added to it,” Ault said. “I think it’s really important that if you do drink coffee you make sure to watch what you put in your coffee. You would be surprised by the nutritional difference of a regular latte versus a ‘skinny’ latte.”

A heavy coffee drinker may find himself or herself helplessly addicted to the caffeine. Some ways to wean off the coffee addiction include substituting the drink with tea instead and making sure to drink plenty of water. Too much caffeine and not enough water can lead to dehydration, something that can cause numerous health issues.

As long as a limited amount of coffee gets consumed to avoid interrupting the body’s normal sleeping patterns, it is safe to say that teenagers can drink coffee and still be healthy. As always, everything in moderation.