It's Thursday night and you just finished that massive term paper for Ms. Higgins's History class. Lucky for you, it's only eight o'clock at night - you still have some time to go out before curfew.

Suddenly, your cell phone rings. It's your best friend Melissa. She is wondering if you want to meet her at the local coffee shop for a late night Triple Chocolate Mocha and some daily school gossip. Without hesitation, you leap from your computer chair and quickly ask your mom before heading out the door.

As a teen in today's society, you are exposed to countless pressures from your friends and your parents, as well as from your schoolwork and job stress.

Additionally, we are being bombarded with an infinite number of marketing campaigns just adds to the lot. However, a type of pressure that can easily be overlooked is that pressure from the aggressive coffee chains, marketing companies whose job is to encourage more people to drink coffee.

The Coffee Association of Canada has stated that more teens between the ages of 18 and 19 are consuming coffee than ever before! This "caffeine craze" also seems to be catching on at a younger age.

Targeting the teenage demographic may seem like a wise idea in the effort to turn young people into lifetime coffee drinkers. However a problem arises when teens are encouraged to drink caffeinated beverages without realizing the possible consequences to their growing bodies.

Did You Know?
Market research shows coffee drinkers age 13 to 17 have increased nearly 25% in the past two years.

In effort to attract more people to coffee, there are now infinite types and flavours of caffeinated beverages to choose from to suit any taste preference. Long gone are the days of the simple "regular coffee." There are flavoured caffe lattes, frappuccinos, iced mocha milkshakes, and various types of energy drink options.

Additionally, the accessibility along with the "trendiness" and hip atmosphere of today's coffee shops attract youth, making them a very popular "hang-out" spot. The perception of caffeine's stimulating effects also seems appealing to teens when they feel over-whelmed and crave a little "boost" of energy in order to stay awake and cram.

Did You Know?
Health Canada says up to 85 milligrams of caffeine a day is safe for older teenagers. A can of Coke or Pepsi has about 40 mg, an average size coffee has between 80 and 100 mg and a typical energy drink has 80 mg.

Now that we know some of the "buzz" surrounding coffee's popularity, it is time to look at what it does to our bodies and why it can be dangerous.

First, caffeine is a drug, which can be addictive when consumed on a regular basis. When something is addictive, it causes physical dependence in its users, which means that you will have withdrawal symptoms like throbbing headaches, tiredness, and irritability without it.

When someone drinks coffee, it stimulates the central nervous system leading to an increase in heart rate. It also and causes blood vessels in the brain to tighten, which leads to a reduced level of oxygen in the bloodstream. This is why you can't get a good night sleep if you drink coffee before bed.

Caffeine is also a diuretic meaning that it increases the body's need to urinate. This can lead to the loss of vitamins and minerals before they can be absorbed by the body.

Recent studies have also shown that high caffeine intake can result in low amounts of calcium and potassium result from high caffeine intake, contributing to and can lead to sore muscles and delayed recovery times after exercise.

Did You Know?
Coffee contains tannic acid (the stuff that makes the dark color), which can stain your teeth a nasty yellow.

If you are drinking too much coffee and falling into the "caffeine craze", you might want to consider slowly cutting back. If all your friends are hanging out at coffee shops and you still want to fit in and feel sophisticated, try substituting a decaf or try half and half- this way you can avoid some of the harmful effects of caffeine.

Moderation is key, so keep track of the sodas and energy drinks you consume, because these all contain caffeine as well. Last, if you are feeling tired because you are drinking less caffeine, give your body what it is really asking for, sleep!

Learn More!

Caffeine

Teens boost caffeine consumption

The Good and Bad Buzz on Caffeine

Andrea D’Ambrosio is in fourth year Applied Human Nutrition student at the University of Guelph. She enjoys a hot cup of tea in the winter and the occasional cup of coffee.

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