The Daily Illini

Excessive caffeine intake may lead to negative effects

By Heather Schlitz, Assistant News Editor

While many students may turn to coffee for an energy boost during finals week, consuming too much caffeine may do more harm than good.

“For the normal population, you shouldn’t drink more than 400 milligrams of caffeine per day,” said Elvira de Mejia, professor of food sciences. “Depending on the person, age and body weight, drinking more than 400 milligrams could pose some problems to the heart. There are reports of people developing heart attacks.”

Erin Gillis, manager of an on-campus Espresso Royale, said her store sees a significant increase in customers around finals week, saying some students order heavily caffeinated drinks when they prepare to pull all-nighters.

“I’ve had people order a ridiculous amount of espresso in a cup so that it’s probably three-fourths full of espresso. For a medium cup, that would probably be 10 to 12 shots of espresso,” Gillis said.

One shot of espresso typically contains around 75 milligrams of coffee, making an order of 10 shots of espresso almost double the safe amount of caffeine to drink per day.

“I get worried about those people,” Gillis said. “That is not good for you, so please drink that slowly.”

De Mejia also cautions students against energy drinks due to their high concentrations of caffeine, like 5-Hour Energy Extra Strength, which contains almost 250 milligrams of caffeine in a single serving.

“Some people develop headaches and nervousness (if they drink more than 400 milligrams). There may be some adverse effects outside of the stimulatory effects and the energy caffeine gives you,” she said.

The effects of caffeine can vary depending on a person’s body weight, health, previous caffeine consumption and age. Some people experience jitters and headaches with relatively few milligrams of caffeine, de Mejia said.

People who are sensitive to the effects of caffeine should start with a cup of tea or coffee if they want to increase focus and awareness while studying, she said.

“When you drink a cup of coffee, after 30 minutes, the caffeine is already in your bloodstream; it’s already around your body, going to different tissues,” de Mejia said. “It helps you to be aware, have more energy, and after an hour and a half, it peaks in your body and bloodstream, and after two to three hours, it’s out of the bloodstream.”

De Mejia said the average person should consume 300 to 400 milligrams of caffeine to maximize their concentration and awareness while minimizing the unfavorable effects.

“I think that if you don’t normally drink caffeine, you don’t want to drink a lot because it’ll just make you too jittery. I don’t think it would actually help you with studying or concentrating; it would just make you feel like shit,” she said.

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