Livin’ La Vida Mocha

This common drug has kept people awake for thousands of years and doesn’t seem to be stopping now. But how much do you really know about caffeine?


Kara Wagenknecht

Grace Yarrow, Kara Wagenknecht, and Jenna Zeng

It’s 2 o’clock in the morning, and you have a cumulative math final tomorrow morning and an essay to write for history class. You’ve been studying all afternoon after hours of activities, and there’s only one thing that can help now. For many students at West, that would be caffeine, a plant-based stimulant found in lots of foods and drinks such as coffee, tea, cola and chocolate.

Caffeine is commonly used amongst teenagers, but according to Dr. Claire Cifaloglio, MD, pediatrician in Arlington, Virginia, caffeine “has an overall negative effect on teenagers, because it has detrimental effects on their long- and short-term health.”

“[Caffeine can cause] an increase in blood pressure, is bad for the heart, and can cause a stroke. Caffeine increases stomach acid … this can be associated later with stomach ulcers,”  Cifaloglio said.

Children and teenagers are using caffeine more than ever, regardless of the various negative health effects. According to one health survey, 73% of children and teens consume caffeine every day. The Mayo Clinic recommends 100 mg of per day, which is the equivalent to about one cup of coffee.

Five years ago, West High’s Business Professionals of America (BPA), opened “Pump it Up,” a small cafe located in the ninth-grade wing of the school. There, caffeinated beverages such as coffee, tea, lattes, and mochas, are sold, all $1.50 and under.

Since its opening, Pump it Up has grown considerably, according to one volunteer at the cafe, Ellie Jacoby ’16.

“When it first opened, it was only opened for a few periods a day and now we have it open for all periods because we have a lot more people that come. We sell a lot more things,” Jacoby said. The most popular drinks at the cafe are blue Gatorade, Vitamin Water and the classic French vanilla latte.

If you’re like other students that purchase these drinks every day and can’t live without caffeine, Dr. Cifaloglio recommends one cup of coffee in the morning each day.

“The advantage to having a cup of coffee in the morning may be to decrease drowsiness and, thus, improve alertness,” Cifaloglio says.

Many students, such as Kat Armstrong `18 enjoy caffeinated beverages. Armstrong says she spends about $15 total on coffee every week, mostly on her favorite drinks from Java House.

“It’s really easy to walk there and grab a drink or dinner between school and whatever I have that night,” Armstrong said. She’s not alone; around 65% of recently surveyed West students say they have caffeine at least once a week.

The metabolites in caffeine can also improve cognitive functionality. Other benefits of caffeine consumption include improvements in physical endurance and mood.

Armstrong said, “We do have to draw the line somewhere… Know what you’re putting into your body and be prepared to deal with it.”

Where should I get my caffeine?

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