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Should You Give Up Caffeine?

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This post is part of KQED’s Do Now U project. Do Now U is a biweekly activity for students and the public to engage and respond to current issues using social media. Do Now U aims to build civic engagement and digital literacy for learners of all ages. This post was written by Logan Carter and Allison Robinson, students in Kira Hamman’s “Statistical Concepts and Reasoning” class at Pennsylvania State University, Mont Alto.

Featured Media Resource
VIDEO: American Chemical Society

The Science of Caffeine: The World’s Most Popular Drug
This video explains the science behind how caffeine keeps you awake and questions how much is safe to consume.

Do Now U

Do you consume caffeine? How much? Do you think you should you give it up or lessen the amount you use? #DoNowUCaffeine

How to Do Now

To respond to the Do Now U, you can comment below or post your response on Twitter. Just be sure to include #DoNowUCaffeine and @KQEDedspace in your posts.

Learn More About Caffeine

The chemical structure of caffeine
The chemical structure of caffeine (Icey/Wikipedia)

Caffeine is found in more than 60 species of plants. The most well-known natural sources are coffee beans, tea leaves, kola nuts and cacao pods. About 80 percent of U.S. adults use caffeine daily. For the coffee lover, caffeine is an important part of the morning. It helps jump start the day. But to the scientific community, caffeine has a mixed reputation due to the combination of benefits and risks it represents.


Moderate caffeine consumption increases alertness and reaction time, improves memory and cognitive skills, and improves mood. In a study conducted by the National Institute of Aging, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, participants who were given caffeine before a cognitive test scored higher than those who had no caffeine. Beyond that, studies suggest that the benefits of caffeine include helping to prevent Parkinson’s disease, reducing the risk of gallstones, preventing weight gain and even stimulating hair growth.

Long-term caffeine use has been found to increase the risk of certain kinds of heart disease, such as coronary heart disease and hypertension, but seems to lower the risk of other types of fatal heart diseases. More common risks of caffeine consumption above the recommended amounts include insomnia, a fast heartbeat, restlessness, and muscle tremors. A 2004 study showed that caffeine increases the effects of nicotine on the body, which means that smokers who consume caffeine may form stronger nicotine addiction.

Consuming moderate amounts of caffeine does not appear to be harmful, and may even be beneficial, but it’s not without risk. Will you give up caffeine?

More Resources

Video: SciShow
Learn about the effects of caffeine on the body.

Article: National Academic Press
6 Caffeine Effects
Read about the effects of caffeine on various aspects of human behavior.

Website: Business Insider
Caffeine Consumption by Age
See how caffeine consumption compares by age and source.

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KQED Do Now U is a biweekly activity in collaboration with SENCER. SENCER is a community of transformation that consists of educators and administrators in the higher and informal education sectors. SENCER aims to create an intelligent, educated, and empowered citizenry through advancing knowledge in the STEM fields and beyond. SENCER courses show students the direct connections between subject content and the real world issues they care about, and invite students to use these connections to solve today’s most pressing problems.

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