It isn’t uncommon to find college students, especially during mid-terms, drowning themselves in coffee to make it through their busy schedule. Late nights, long days and tough classes often call for a caffeine boost. According to a 2014 study conducted by the National Coffee Association (a trade association for the U.S. coffee industry), 35 percent of people aged 18-24 consume coffee on a regular basis.
It’s been proven that there are many health benefits to drinking coffee. According to growyouthful.com, a website about home remedies and treatments, coffee is a large source of antioxidants.
Despite its benefits, consuming too much caffeine can trigger unwanted side effects, like shaky hands and increased heart rate. An alternative, yet often unpopular option, is decaffeinated coffee – a substitute that goes unnoticed but could help students better balance their caffeine intake.
According to Einstein Bros Bagels employee Colleen Geller, sophomore in psychology and human resource management, the amount of decaffeinated coffee she sells per day is significantly lower than the amount of regular coffee sold. She said the type of students drawn to the campus coffee shops are seeking caffeine and caffeine alone.
“I think decaf has a bad stigma, because people drink coffee for the caffeine,” Geller said. “Why would someone spend that much money on something that won’t provide a boost of energy?”
Avid coffee drinker Katie Cannata, sophomore in business administration, said she also thinks there isn’t much point in ordering a decaf coffee versus a regular coffee.
“It’s just a waste,” Cannata said.
Students struggling with sensitivity to caffeine however, may beg to differ. Emily Forge, junior in family studies and human services, opts for decaf coffee – unlike many of her peers like Cannata.
“I drank regular coffee up until last year when I started getting caffeine highs really bad,” Forge said. “I would get super jittery and feel completely out of it. My heart would be racing.”
Forge, who has been drinking coffee since the age of 13, began recognizing a link between coffee and her abnormal fits after her mother made the suggestion that coffee could be triggering the symptoms.
As she was used to drinking coffee long before her spells started, it had taken her some time to actually make the connection between the two. When she did about a year ago, she began drinking decaf coffee.
Despite what many think of decaf coffee, Forge said she gets a lift of energy after drinking her morning dose.
“I think part of coffee drinking is a mental thing for me,” Forge said. “Do I get a boost? Yes. Is it from the caffeine? No, obviously. It’s all mentality at this point.”
Forge said she finds comfort in having decaf coffee in the morning because it’s her routine way of starting her day.
Bri Thrailkill, sophomore in elementary education and barista at Bluestem Bistro, said the Aggieville coffee shop sells more decaf coffee in the morning than in the afternoon and evenings.
“It’s interesting, but I’ve noticed more people will buy decaf coffee earlier in the day and then later, customers will buy more of our caffeinated drinks,” Thrailkill said.
Unwanted side effects
Jenny Yuen, health educator at Lafene Health Center, recommends that students drink coffee in moderation to avoid triggering unwanted side effects.
According to Yuen, students who have high anxiety levels or who are regularly more hyper than others should avoid regular coffee and instead switch to decaf. However, she said students with acid reflex might not want to drink decaf, because it has a higher level of acidity than regular coffee.
According to teeccino.com, a coffee-alternatives website, the acid found in decaf coffee is higher than regular coffee. Too much acid can actually be harmful as it causes heartburn, ulcers, inflammatory bowel conditions, osteoporosis and urinary tract inflammations.
It’s beneficial for decaf drinkers, as well as regular coffee drinkers, to research the different coffee choices to find a drink that best suits them.
“I think college students especially don’t think about the benefits or the harms of drinking coffee versus decaf coffee,” Geller said. “When you think of … a drug being bad for you, you think of hard drugs, not the caffeine found in coffee.”
Geller said students should limit the amount of coffee they consume each day. She suggests that if students are merely drinking coffee for the taste or comfort, to start out with caffeinated coffee and then switch to decaffeinated coffee throughout the day to ensure they will be able to sleep at night.
“Once you learn your own body, it’s so easy to make decisions as to what’s right for you,” Forge said.