NZ uni students suffering side effects of high caffeine consumption, but refusing to quit

Many are just putting up with a fast heartbeat, upset stomach and inability to sleep.
Many are just putting up with a fast heartbeat, upset stomach and inability to sleep. Photo credit: Getty.

A nationwide survey of hundreds of New Zealand tertiary students found almost every single one of them consume some level of caffeine daily, with a quarter experiencing "distressing" side effects. 

But researchers found most of those students who suffered negative effects associated with caffeine such as a fast heartbeat, upset stomach or an inability to sleep had no plans to stop consuming caffeine any time soon. 

The results of the Massey University study were published in the journal Nutrients this week and measured the caffeine intake of more than 300 university students. 

Chocolate, coffee, tea and energy drinks contributed most to the total caffeine intake of 99 percent of students, with the median intake measured at 146.7mg a day. 

But in some cases, maximum intakes of up to 1988.14mg a day were recorded - almost five times what experts consider the "safe" level of intake: 400mg a day. 

One third (34.4 per cent) of caffeine consumers ingested caffeine above the adverse effect level and 14.3 percent regularly consumed more than the safe limit, according to researchers. 

They concluded that the level of caffeine ingested by students above the recommended safe levels "suggests a potential public health risk", especially with 77 percent of students refusing to curb their intake despite suffering adverse side effects. 

But they noted that as the benefits and risks of caffeine consumption are dose-dependent, "the public health consequences can only be determined once data is available on the amount of caffeine currently being consumed by New Zealanders". 

If you're looking for natural energy boosters as an alternative to coffee, experts recommend matcha, green tea or warming raw cacao drinks, all which contain much lower levels of caffeine.