How much is too much?

Alongside Kraft Dinner and beer, coffee is without a doubt one of the major food groups for the average university student. Giving us the power to disregard the time constrictions of working by day and sleeping by night, coffee has often been the source behind our long extra hours of study and play or our miraculously impeccable attendance in that 8:30 class on a Friday morning. But like anything, this wonder in a cup has its bitter sweet flavour.

Caffeine works to keep us awake by binding to adenosine receptors in the brain, which are meant for the sleep inducing chemical adenosine. Adenosine slows down nerve cell activity, but caffeine speeds it up and in doing so draws the attention of our pituitary gland. Thinking some emergency is going on, the pituitary gland takes the appropriate measures to produce adrenaline in the body which results in a sense of alertness. But it is not long lasting, and can only be redeemed by another dosage.

Over time, this causes us to develop a dependency. I’m sure every coffee drinker has experienced the abnormal exhaustion and mental agitation of missing their daily intake. This is due to the body going through withdrawal, for caffeine is the world’s most popular drug and follows the same principles as any other. Although despite many of its cohorts, this particular drug can be beneficial if taken in moderation.

Coffee is a great source of antioxidants which are uncommon in most foods and work to strengthen the body and fend off illness. But too much can have the opposite effect by resulting in such disorders as insomnia and mental anxiety. That is why, according to Health Canada, the average adult should consume no more than 400 milligrams per day which is approximately equivalent to three 8 ounce cups.

Unfortunately, the amount of caffeine in our usual purchases at Wilfrid Laurier University’s campus coffee shops are not consistent because caffeine levels also vary between the bean type, roast, grind and brewing method used. The infograph above offers a rough idea of what to expect from your next coffee on the go.

Starbuck’s Coffee, Tall, 12 ounces: 260 mg

Starbuck’s Coffee, Grande, 16 ounces: 330 mg

Starbuck’s Coffee, Venti, 20 ounces: 415 mg

Tim Horton’s coffee, small, 8 ounces: 80 mg

Tim Horton’s coffee, medium, 12 ounces: 100 mg

Tim Horton’s coffee, large, 14 ounces: 140 mg

Tim Horton’s coffee, extra-large, 20 ounces: 200 mg

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