March 2, 2020
March is National Caffeine Awareness Month
March is National Caffeine Awareness MonthSource: The Burgundy Zine
Wake up and smell the coffee, bug buddies. March is National Caffeine Awareness month – but that doesn’t mean treating yourself to an extra cup ‘o Joe.
In fact, National Caffeine Awareness Month was initiated by the Caffeine Awareness Alliance to help promote a caffeine-free industry in 2003, according to National Today.
A Bit of Context…
Caffeine, “the world’s most popular psychoactive drug,” is a stimulant found in coffee, tea, energy drinks, soda, and chocolate.
“It has been estimated that approximately 2.25 billion cups of coffee, the major source of dietary caffeine, are served every day, and that more than 80 percent of the world’s population consume at least one caffeine-containing beverage on a daily basis,” says a 2016 Nutraceuticals chapter. “As a food ingredient, caffeine also has one of the longest histories of human consumption due to its natural occurrence in the beans, leaves, or fruit of more than 60 different plants, including coffee, tea, guarana, cola nuts, and cocoa pods.”
If there’s anybody who appreciates a caffeine buzz, it’s college students. According to a 2019 Clinical Nutrition study, 92 percent of students reported drinking caffeine within the last year for the following reasons:
- “To feel awake” – 79 percent
- “Enjoy the taste” – 68 percent
- “Social consumption” – 39 percent
- “Improve concentration” – 31 percent
- “Increase physical energy” – 27 percent
- “Improve mood” – 18 percent
- “Alleviate stress” – 9 percent
Caffeine Levels in Beverages (Per 8oz)
- Espresso: 373.6 to 502.4 mg
- (Regular) coffee: 95.2 mg
- Energy drinks: 90 mg
- Black tea: 47.2 mg
- Green tea: 24.8 mg
- Soft drinks: 24 mg
- Chocolate milk: 1.6 to 16 mg
Decaf Doesn’t Mean “No Caffeine”
Say it ain’t so, but the US Food and Drug Administration explains that decaf doesn’t mean there isn’t any caffeine, rather, there’s less caffeine than its counterpart.
Your Brain on Caffeine
Caffeine is an adenosine antagonist, which means it blocks adenosine, a compound responsible for regulating sleep, the cardiovascular and gastrointestinal systems, explains a 2019 StatPearls review.
This produces the wakeful effects of caffeine, how the substance increases blood pressure, and why a cup ‘o Joe may help you go.
Caffeine is generally recognized as safe and has been studied for it’s potential to treat migraines, headaches, depression, neurodegenerative diseases (Alzheimer’s Disease and Parkinson’s Disease). The link between caffeine and athletic performance has also been subject to study.
The maximum “safe” daily dose of caffeine is 400 mg per day, but there have been reports of adverse effects to just 80 mg, so the “safe” dose could vary from individual to individual.
Caffeine also stimulates the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine – “the feel-good hormone” – glutamate, and acetylcholine, says a 2010 Psychopharmacology review.
Glutamate is the most abundant free amino acid in the brain and has excitatory effects on nerve cells, even to the point of exciting the nerve cells to death, according to a 2014 Journal of Neural Transmission review.
Acetylcholine also acts on neural excitability, says a 2012 Neuron review. While the effects of acetylcholine depend on where it was released, the recurring theme is the neurotransmitter decreases responses to ongoing stimuli that “do not require immediate action.”
When you break down caffeine to its neurochemical song and dance, it makes a lot of sense: we often reach for a cup of coffee to get us through that morning slump or late-night homework binge to boost wakefulness and focus, right?
The Adverse Effects of Caffeine
Overindulging in caffeine can result in a variety of side effects that range from mild to severe, according to the StatsPearl review and FDA.
Mild Side Effects of Caffeine
- Increased or irregular heart rate
- Increased urination
- Muscle twitches or tremors
- Upset stomach
Severe Side Effects of Caffeine
Quitting caffeine cold-turkey can result in withdrawal symptoms that begin 12 to 24 hours since your last sip and may persist for up to one week.
Symptoms include headaches, fatigue, mood changes, difficulty concentrating, and constipation, Medical News Today reports.
National Caffeine Awareness Month
Observing national caffeine awareness month doesn’t mean drinking an extra cup of coffee, nor does it mean cutting out caffeine altogether (although the Caffeine Awareness Alliance does seek to promote a caffeine-free industry).
Instead, the point of the holiday is in its very namesake: to raise awareness of caffeine and promote more mindful consumption (or perhaps a mindful decrease in consumption).
Regardless of whether coffee, tea, soda, or energy drinks are your lifeblood, it’s important to be conscious of what you’re putting in your body – even if it seems harmless.
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