The health benefits of coffee for SIUE students. Is it actually healthy?

Although there will always be some coffee drinkers who can’t go without their daily dose of coffee, there are certain factors to consider when thinking about the health benefits coffee may or may not have before diving into a second cup. 

A single cup of coffee can contain vitamin B2, vitamin B5, potassium, calcium and magnesium, but none of them reach more than 22 percent of the recommended daily allowance. 

Although this may not seem like a huge portion, most people drink more than one cup per day. If a person drinks three to four cups, then these amounts quickly add up.

According to Kelly Farroll, Medical Chief for SIUE Health Services, coffee has some antioxidants, but the caffeine in coffee is not a benefit for young people.

“There are studies out there that investigate this, but it’s all very inconclusive or difficult to sort out because many of them are about coffee and beverages that have caffeine, so it is hard to know what the benefit might be,” Farroll said. “It’s hard to get a lot of information that is reliable.”

Farroll said an excess of caffeine can lead to health problems, which can offset the positive effects coffee can have.

“Caffeine, in someone who has some predisposing factors, can lead to abnormal heartbeats and anxiety,” Farroll said. “There are medical problems, especially when there is something underlying, and then you add caffeine that contributes to it.”

There are other components added to coffee beverages aside from caffeine that also deplete the health benefits: adding pumps of chocolate or caramel syrup, sugar and whipped cream toppings for flavor.

Senior psychology major Alex Rull of Litchfield, Illinois, says she doesn’t drink coffee because of the high sugar content in most commercial coffee drinks. “I see the amount of syrups we put in each drink, and, unless you are drinking black coffee, you are getting all the fat from the cream, four pumps of one syrup, or five pumps of another and then a whipped topping, and that’s how most people drink their coffee,” Rull said.

Rull believes the benefits coffee can offer are masked by the sugar added to the drinks.

“When I first started working at the coffee shop, I had to try out a lot of the drinks we had to make, and I don’t think there are any benefits to it,” Rull said. “I think the negatives outweigh it, because caffeine isn’t good for you, and I think any minute health benefit there is just covered up by all of the crap we put in it.” 

Sophomore biology student  Steve Twillmann, of St. Louis, says he drinks a cup of coffee every day and believes there are health benefits to it.

“I only drink black coffee. I don’t drink any cream, and the coffee beans are supposed to have a health benefit. If you add all that junk into it like sugar and caramel, then that kind of defeats the purpose,” Twillmann said. “Other than staining your teeth and having coffee breath, I don’t think it’s too bad for you.”

Twillmann said he doesn’t depend on coffee, but when he does drink it, he feels more alert.

“You know [how] whenever you take a test, you start to remember everything? That’s kind of how I feel when I drink coffee. When I have a huge physics or biology exam, I drink it to study,” Twillmann said.

Although people may use coffee as a stimulant to feel more awake and alert, Farroll believes students should not depend on coffee. 

“If people are drinking coffee all day because they are tired all the time, I would not recommend drinking coffee. Instead, I would say maybe they need more sleep, and that’s not a healthy way to manage that,” Farroll said.

Farroll believes there are healthier alternatives to consuming caffeine, such as exercising. 

“I do think yoga, exercise, and stretching can be very helpful. When you exercise there are chemical and hormonal things that happen in the body that can give you peace and make you feel more alert,” Farroll said. “Chemical changes and the way your body responds to exercise can help you to manage depression and anxiety and certainly can help you feel more alert, in control and able to handle things.”

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