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How Coffee Consumption Affects College Students' Tests

by Jen Saunders

The life of a college student typically involves Ramen noodle lunches, beer and coffee. And interestingly enough all three of these staples are fine in moderation. But when consuming too much, there are consequences. Coffee is a two-sided coin. It has its benefits, but it also poses risks. Coffee has a special place in the consumption habits of students preparing for exams and tests. A few pots of coffee typically go hand in hand with study groups and all-night cram sessions. But does coffee really play a pivotal role in your test scores?

Moderation and Higher Test Scores

Findings reveal that moderate coffee consumption does improve student’s test scores. In the October 21, 2007, issue of ‘The Nutrition Journal,’ a study was published in which 51 percent of 496 college students regularly resorted to coffee and other caffeinated beverages to help them in test preparation. John Wiley and Sons in "Human Psychopharmacology" concluded that caffeine gave an advantage. The study indicated that higher levels of the stimulant in coffee showed increased levels of alertness and improved cognitive responses.

The Crash and Burn

Like most good things in life, moderation is key. While coffee in moderation has positive effects on students studying for exams, it can also have adverse effects. Neuron activity is increased during coffee consumption. When this happens, a student’s adenosine receptors -- which trigger adrenaline flow -- are disrupted. Brain activity functions at a higher level, but only briefly. Excessive use can cause the student to crash and burn, leaving him feeling jittery, irritable and dehydrated, as well as having a headache and not thinking clearly. Studies have also revealed that many students who consumed too much coffee in college later succumbed to chronic illnesses and ulcers as a result of their java indulgences. A few cups of joe can be beneficial, but don’t push it by drinking the beverage in excess.

Knowing Your Limitations

Our bodies react to substances differently. When drinking coffee for the purpose of increasing alertness for test-taking, knowing your body and how it reacts to caffeine is key. If you plan on staying up all night to study for a test in the morning, pace yourself and try drinking two or three cups over several hours. You will want to feel a stable level of alertness versus a continuous drop and spike in your ability to stay alert. In the morning, have just one cup while reading through your notes.

Coffee Considerations

Coffee has a number of health benefits. Studies featured on Web M.D. argue that caffeine can reduce the risk of diabetes, gallstones, Parkinson’s disease and liver disease. Drinking coffee in moderation can be regarded as just as beneficial as drinking small amounts of red wine for heart health. However, drinking too much coffee can lead to stomach problems and other debilitating illnesses that cloud the mind and make the body sluggish. If you plan to use coffee as your nighttime study partner for test preparation, drink in moderation. Otherwise you may just be retaking your art history class while filling a prescription for ulcer medicine.

About the Author

Jen Saunders is an entrepreneur and veteran journalist who covers a wide range of topics. She made the transition to writing after having spent 12 years in England where she studied and taught English literature.

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