One quarter of university students who consume coffee have reported being distressed by negative side effects in a Massey University study, released yesterday. But that’s not stopping them from getting their coffee fix.

The study surveyed more than 300 New Zealand tertiary students and found almost all the students (99 percent) regularly consumed caffeinated products such as coffee, tea and energy drinks.

14 percent were consuming above the safe limit of 400 mg per day, which is approximately four cups of coffee.

Overall, it’s estimated 73 percent of New Zealanders consume caffeine daily. For university students, particularly high caffeine consumption rates will be familiar to those who’ve struggled to stay alert in a lecture theatre or needed a 2am boost to meet an assignment deadline. 

And while the benefits of caffeine around concentration and alertness are well known, the Massey University study also highlighted its negative effects among students.

Most students in the survey experienced at least one negative side effect after consuming caffeine. 26 percent said side effects caused distress or negatively impacted their social or work life. Side effects included being unable to sleep, a fast or uneven heartbeat, or an upset stomach.

Despite this, 77 percent of energy drink and coffee consumers who’ve experienced negative side effects said they continued to regularly consume caffeine. Nearly two-thirds of students surveyed also said they had a caffeine dependence.

According to the research, the substantial amount of students consuming caffeine above the safe limit and reporting negative side effects could signify a “potential public health issue”. Possible caffeine-related health risks include anxiety, nausea and sleeplessness, as well as more severe risks such as respiratory problems, and liver and heart damage.

And if you’re a student reading this while consuming a caffeinated beverage, remember that in low doses, caffeine can help us be clear-minded and critical-thinking - or at the very least awake. However, it could be a good idea to rethink that third can of energy drink during the next all-nighter.

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