Author Archives: Alexander Nicholas Cautela

Does Stress Actually Cause Acne?

I’ve heard from countless people, especially women, that stress can give you pimples. I usually trust women with cosmetic advice, but this one I’m not so sure about it. I don’t understand the science behind it, and it seems like some old wives’ tale to me. But as I have seen tiny traces of pimples appear on my own face, correlated with increasing stress levels, I began to wonder if it indeed were true. Assuming the alternative hypothesis is correct–that stress can cause pimples–how can we relieve ourselves of stress to erase these unwanted blemishes. But for now, I have no grounds to reject the null–that stress does nothing to contribute to pimples.

Stanford published the findings of a 2003 study which analyzed the relationship between stress and acne. Researches observed college students’ changes in acne throughout periods of regular classes as well as exams. The participants included 22 students, 7 men and 15 women, with an average acne severity scale of 0.5 according to the Leeds acne scale (what we would consider ‘minimum’ acne). By the end of the study, the team had observed that students had a higher degree of acne around the time of their exams. Scientists considered confounding variables including the quantity and quality of both food and sleep, and their possible effect on stress.

The researchers concluded that students who already experience acne may see worsened symptoms during periods of examinations or stress. However, the study didn’t say why this occurred–that is to say–what the mechanism was. What is it about stress that causes acne, if any? Another shortcoming of the study was the sample size. The study consisted of only 22 students who had pre-existing cases of acne. Although the results ‘seem legit’ according to the scientific method, I would suggest that the researchers also observe students without acne during examination periods, to see if acne caused stress in subjects who had no previously experienced the condition. This strategy would better support the findings because the researchers would be analyzing a more diverse demographic.

So I took my curiosity to the ever-trustworthy WebMD, and was met with somewhat satisfying results. Sebum is an oily substance that may explain why acne appears during periods of stress, according to Lisa A. Garner, an expert in dermatology at the University of Texas Southwest Medical Center. The professor explains that receptors within sebum-producing cells interact with stress hormones, which could produce these red devils. She also claims that sebum-cells are irritated by the individual’s stress, which produces oil to clog hair follicles where a pimple then appears. However, this is simply scientific speculation which has yet to be confirmed.

It seems curious to me that while we can send a man to the moon and look at craters on mars, we can’t figure out what’s going on with our damn faces. I speculate that this could be due to a lack of funding or interest on the subject. Therefore, more studies need to be done! For now, I would recommend maintaining a steady diet, exercising regularly, and preparing in advance for tests to avoid stress. So don’t take your grandmother’s word for gold, but maybe one day science will give me a reason to believe that stress can cause acne.

Works cited:

Stanford study:


intimate stressed guy:


Does Exercising Improve Musicality?

As a musician and former athlete, I have long pondered whether exercising benefits musical performance. Initially I was curious if working out with the goal of building strength or conditioning muscles could improve the physicality of your playing. For instance, does practicing boxing make your drumming better? Another curiosity of mine was whether exercising can give you a mental ‘boost’ during your playing. In other words, does exercise improve the efficiency of internal processes, allowing you to have better ideas during improvisation? My life right now is extremely busy because of school work, which leaves little time for music (my next priority), and even less time for physical fitness (my third priority, for the sake of this blog). But if I knew that exercising directly improves musical performance, I would make more time to do so.

Since I’m almost at the mark of my fitness-free month, I’m looking for any excuse to get back into working out. I know it would improve my physical and mental health, but if I found out that exercise could improve my musicality, I would run to the treadmill immediately. So let’s do some research.

First, the null would be: exercise does nothing to improve musical performance. Or the alternative: exercising improves musical performance.

According to a 2004 study entitled “Effects of aerobic exercise on anxiety sensitivity,” aerobic exercise was shown to lessen the overall effects of general anxiety. 54 subjects (ages 18-51; 41 women) who had self-reported anxiety participated in treadmill exercises of varying degrees of intensity; anxiety levels were reported through a survey, measuring physical and mental perceptions of the symptom. The researchers found that both high and low-intensity workouts reduced what they called “anxiety sensitivity.” This term refers to the degree to which people react to high-anxiety situations. For musicians, this could be an important recital or performance. Think of it as the anticipation of anxiety during a performance, which means that people become anxious when they think about the anxiety they might have while up on stage.

The high-intensity aerobic exercises more greatly affected anxiety levels, as the presence of general anxiety was found to be significantly diminished in these subjects after 6 workout sessions. On the other hand, subjects who performed the low-intensity workouts did not see as substantial an effect on their reported anxiety.

But this still doesn’t answer my query as to whether exercising has physical benefits to playing music. I would have to see whether exercises which focused on coordination or strength would in turn benefit instrumental coordination. Some people claim that lifting weights could cause musicians to love their “feel” for their instrument. In other words, strength training could affect the finesse with which they play. As a guitarist, I have a few wrist/finger/forearm strengthening tools which I use to improve the necessary strength for guitar playing. I have seen improvements in areas of my playing that help with soloing and chording, but that could be due to the confounding variable of practice itself.

For beginner musicians, strength can be a difficult obstacle to adeptly playing their instrument. Drumming requires upper and lower body strength to get strong drum ‘hits’. There is also a great deal of endurance needed to play this instrument, so full-body stamina exercises can’t hurt. As a guitarist/bassist, strong hands, fingers, and forearm
ms are needed in order to reduce the ‘buzz’ that you hear when a fret isn’t pushed down hard enough. Although as a singer, I’m not sure you really need much exercise. I have seen plenty of heavyset singers who can absolutely wail. However, if you’re going for David Lee Roth style performing stunts, you might want to consider picking up some nunchucks.

Although the results of this study showed that exercise could reduce the effects of anxiety sensitivity, it wasn’t musician-specific. To attain a more specific conclusion, I would conduct an experimental study with only musicians as subjects. I would have a control group of musicians who did not exercise as a part of their daily regimen, and an experimental group in which musicians would exercise. I would take self-reported levels of anxiety prior to the study, and measure those anxiety levels throughout several months, during which both groups of musicians would have performances. I would also test playing speed and strength of attack before and after the trials to determine whether weight lifting improved these areas of playing. Also, I would hire playing experiments to evaluate how this training affected one’s feel of the instrument.

But here’s the takeaway: intense exercise is not imperative to musical adeptness. Big, small, fat, skinny, strong…you don’t need superb physicality to rock out. You can be as skinny as Jimmy Page or as buff as John Petrucci; it doesn’t matter unless you can SHRED that thing. (Note: John Petrucci was an amazing guitarist even before he was shredded).



Works cited:

Initial article (where I found the study):

Effects of aerobic exercise on anxiety sensitivity:

Arnold & Guitar:

DLR jumping photo:

John Petrucci:

Jimmy Page:

Are there any Health Benefits to Drinking Coffee?

That’s right. Yet another coffee blog. But this time, I want to talk about what no one in this class has explored: whether or not DRINKING COFFEE is GOOD FOR YOU. I became interested in this topic after realizing how much coffee I’d been drinking lately. While part of me thought, “This is definitely very bad for my health,” my optimistic self hoped: “Maybe it’s not so bad. Maybe there ARE benefits to this habit.” A thought that was born out of sheer despair, but perhaps has some validity to it.

Are there health advantages to drinking coffee?

I’m going to attempt to answer this highly enticing question: are there any health benefits to drinking coffee? (In a previous blog, I discussed the negative impacts of caffeine consumption. For argument’s sake, I am going to focus primarily on any potential benefits). The null hypothesis would be: there are no health benefits to drinking coffee. And the alternative hypothesis: drinking coffee has health benefits. Let’s take a closer look at some data.

So what is the benefit to drinking ground beans? Coffee is used primarily as a stimulant or energy booster. It can help college students focus during class, and it can fuel your muscles through a workout or simply walking to and from lectures. Obviously, coffee provides very valuable short-term benefits, but can it actually fortify your health?


Mean coffee consumption in NHS, NHS 2, AND HPFS over follow up period

Mean coffee consumption in NHS, NHS 2, AND HPFS over follow up period

While coffee hasn’t been shown to give users physical benefits (e.g. stronger muscles, better hair, more handsome, etc.), it has been “associated with lower risk of total mortality,” according to the results of one study. A team of researchers conducted a longitudinal, observational study beginning in 1984. Subjects were examined in 3 groups NHS (Nurses’ Health Study), HPFS (Health Professionals Follow-up Study), and NHS 2. They self-reported the amount of total coffee consumption, both caffeinated and decaffeinated. Results came back from 200,000 men and women throughout their lifetime. After 4,690,072 “person-years” of tracking the subjects, over 19,000 women and over 12,000 men died.

The researchers found that, although the relationship between coffee consumption and mortality was non-linear, consuming between 1 and 5 cups of coffee was associated with a lower risk of mortality. To that end, neurological diseases, cardiovascular diseases, and suicide displayed noteworthy inverse relationships with coffee consumption. In other words, the more coffee subjects drank, the less likely they were to commit suicide. The study, entitled Association of Coffee Consumption with Total and Cause-Specific Mortality in Three Large Prospective Cohorts,” also listed other diseases inversely associated with coffee consumption including liver cancer, lethal prostate cancer, and type 2 diabetes. 

So although coffee won’t give you superpowers, drinking these liquified beans might be in the best interest of your health. And while the study was rather inconclusive, researchers have reason to speculate that drinking more coffee could reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Because of the inverse relationship between coffee consumption and aforementioned diseases (p-value: 0.022), we can effectively reject the null hypothesis, that any benefits from coffee drinking is due to chance.

I expected there to be tangible health benefits from my research, but the results of the study were sufficient for my curiosity. According to this study, coffee drinkers have been shown to be less susceptible to certain diseases. My recommendation: drinking between 1-5 cups of coffee per day is ok (2 seems reasonable), but don’t expect your spidey senses to start tingling.

old coffee graphic:

fat spidey:

study used:

The TRUTH Behind Sleep

In all my years of schooling, I have long wondered how people can go to sleep at 2, 3, 4, and even 5 in the morning and still be able to function throughout the day. I’m not the most organized person in terms of a sleep schedule, but I rarely venture out past 1 AM. If I regularly did, I’d probably drop dead walking between classes.

Literally me

Sleep. It’s a topic that’s always perplexed me. I’d like to answer some of the most common questions about sleep, once and for all. Why do humans really sleep? How much sleep do we need? And: what exactly can a good night’s sleep do for you?

So, why sleep at all? My parents always told me that we need sleep because our body needs to rest from all the intense functioning throughout the day. To myself and many, this seems like pretty sound reasoning. However, scientists aren’t sure that sleep serves simply as an energy restoration period, where we take a break from our intensely active routines. In fact, our brain seems to be just as active, albeit in a different way, during sleep as it is during ‘functioning hours’. Skeptical still, other scientists have found stronger evidence that suggests that sleep is a period of memory consolidation. In other words, during sleep we convert short-term memory into long term memory, according to IFL Science. Let’s explore these 2 theories.

One way I think of sleep is similar to charging your phone at night. Your body is like your phone, sleep is like your charger, and in order to restore its battery, you shouldn’t use it! But it’s not quite that simple. There are two distinct periods of sleep: slow-wave sleep (SWS) and rapid eye movement (REM). SWS is the first period of sleep and is what we call “deep sleep”. According to Scientific American, it is “characterized by large, slow brain waves, relaxed muscles and slow, deep breathing, which may help the brain and body to recuperate after a long day.” So maybe there is some evidence to support sleep as a recovery phase. However, this becomes less certain when we consider REM. During this phase of sleep, which is when dreaming occurs, the brain is in an intensely hyperactive state. Breathing and heartbeat function irregularly, and the body becomes virtually paralyzed amid this dream state. Due to the neurological hyperactivity associated with REM, scientists cannot say that sleep is solely a recovery period.

Many scientists believe that sleep serves as a tool for memory consolidation. Researchers analyzed the results of 1995, 1997, and 2003 studies on human sleep deprivation. They found that the overall ability of memory sleep-deprived subjects was significantly impaired, though this could be due to a confounding variable; stress is known to cause difficulty in memory recollection. Scientists have concluded that experimenting with sleep deprivation to determine whether sleep is used for memory consolidation is problematic due to confounding variables such as stress.

Despite the ongoing debate of the purpose of sleep, we know that sleep is necessary, and sleeping has various advantage’s to one’s overall well-being health and lifestyle benefits. I have had many teachers and adults alike tell me that proper sleep is imperative if one wants to achieve success. However, I have anecdotal data which leads me to be skeptical of this statement.

As a musician, I have been well-aware of how our kind openly neglects proper sleeping habits. Countless times I have heard prominent musicians attribute their success, in part, to those cliché nights where they stay up all night creating music–pursuing their artistic vision. One of my favorite bands of all time is the great Led Zeppelin. In their live album/concert video “The Song Remains the Same,” I recall Robert Plant and Jimmy Page telling the interviewer about how they often fly from show to show, sometimes without any sleep at all, and still perform grueling 2 or 3 hour sets (possibly with the help of ‘substances’, but nevertheless…). In fact, guitarist Jimmy Page has claimed that he ACTUALLY plays better when he is exhausted.

The Mayo Clinic states: “Some people claim to feel rested on just a few hours of sleep a night, but their performance is likely affected. Research shows that people who sleep so little over many nights don’t perform as well on complex mental tasks as do people who get closer to seven hours of sleep a night.” So, the excellence of Page & Company can be attributed to their extraordinary talent, which apparently was not too significantly altered by inadequate sleeping. According to their guidelines, the Mayo Clinic suggests that Adults (18+) need 7-9 hours of sleep per night for ideal functioning. However, they mention, this number is variable depending on certain factors including physical exercise/exhaustion and previous sleep deprivation.

Robert Plant & Jimmy Page

While we can’t yet identify the exact purpose of sleep, it is clearly necessary for survival. If achieved in the proper quantity and quality, sleep can positively impact your life. It can improve focus and give you the energy to have a productive day. And although many musicians like Jimmy Page will claim that sleep deprivation can benefit your work, there is no evidence to support that statement. So I leave you with the unsatisfying conclusion that we really don’t know the truth behind sleep. If you can find evidence that supports the notion that less sleep is somehow beneficial to you, please let me know. Otherwise, I recommend shooting for at least 7 hours. I think most scientists would agree with me. The brain and sleep are areas of science that remain vastly unexplored, deeply mysterious, and immensely interesting.




Works Cited:

 (2015). What Happens in the Brain During Sleep? Retrieved October 18, 2016, from
Sleep deprivation and Pavlovian fear conditioning. (1970). Retrieved October 18, 2016, from
Led Zeppelin Image:
Sleep deprived guy image:
Sleeping hologram:

Does Meditation Work?

I have been participating in the free yoga classes offered at the UHS building every Wednesday at 4pm (if you’re interested in giving that a go). I enjoy this routine mainly because it is an easy, yet effective workout, and also because it gives me a chance to feel at peace amid my somewhat chaotic weekly routine. I consider this to be essentially the same as meditation, which has been particularly useful to me lately. I take 5-10 minutes out of my day to be completely thoughtless and at peace with my conscious. I know that sounds like mumbo-jumbo to all you skeptics, but in reality, many have attributed meditation to various physical and mental health improvements. Don’t just take my word for it–here’s one man’s story about his journey to happiness through meditation.

About a decade ago, ABC news anchor Dan Harris had a panic attack on live television in front of one million viewers. He had accumulated significant stress from, what he attributes to, an incessant drive for success in his field, as well as his experience in Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks. Because of this intense stress, he decided to self-medicate with cocaine and ecstasy–a habit which skyrocketed the adrenaline levels in his brain and ultimately led to that infamous mental breakdown on the morning news. Despite his reluctancy to do so, Harris was assigned to cover religion during his period of recuperation.

His new job led him to discover the work of self-help guru Eckhart Tolle, and Dr. Mark Epstein. The latter scholar talks about the connection between psychiatry and Buddhist meditation. These works led the ambitious Harris to research Buddhist philosophy, which provided actionable advice for introspection and emotional regulation. Meditation is in fact supported by a wealth of scientific evidence which supports the notion that such an action has enormous benefits to the brain and body. These benefits include lowering blood pressure, boosting the immune system, and increasing self-awareness just to name a few. While he maintains that meditation will not solve all your problems, author Dan Harris publicly advocates the hobby as it can cultivate positive thinking. So let’s look at the evidence behind Harris’s claim that meditation can make you “10% happier.”

Dan Harris

Consider the null: meditation does absolutely nothing to improve mental and physical health, which certain skeptics claim, and the alternative: meditation indeed improves mental and physical health, and contributes to a better sense of well-being to the individual (as Harris would assert). It is possible that meditation alone does not improve well-being, as an increase in meditative habits could be correlated with an increase in motivational and organizational behaviors, which would be one confounding variable.

In 2011, the Journal of College Student Psychotherapy published results of a study entitled “The Effect of Meditation on Self-Reported Measures of Stress, Anxiety, Depression, and Perfectionism in a College Population.” Researchers conducted the study on a group of 43 participants, all undergraduate students. Students themselves assessed their levels of stress, anxiety, depression, and perfectionism prior to the study. They were then trained in the art of “transcendental meditation” (putative causal) which they routinely practiced throughout the length of two semesters. At the conclusion of the semester, the response variables were reassessed by the researchers, who concluded that all levels of the four variables had significantly decreased. As the meditation showed noteworthy results, the team suggested that the use of meditation should be discussed further. However, they were not able to substantially assert that meditation was PROVEN to alleviate these symptoms in college students.

Madhav Goyal, an assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University, evaluated the results of 47 randomly assigned clinical trials on meditation in 2012 . Each of these studies involved subjects participating in either mindfulness meditation, which stresses being in “the present,” or some other psychotherapy technique. (The psychotherapy control group was implemented in order to compare the effects of meditation practices to non-meditation practices–both which have the same goal of improving overall well-being). Goyal and his team of researchers took a meta-analyses of these 47 studies and found evidence which suggests that meditation lessened feelings of stress and anxiety in subjects. However, Goyal did not come up with the data needed to corroborate stereotypical claims about meditation such as its effect on human emotion or attentiveness.

Although scientists were unable to come up with concrete evidence for the mental and physical health benefits of meditation, Goyal speculates that there is still room for discovery. “The trials we’re seeing have relatively small sample sizes,” he notes, “and many of them have problems with their quality.” The latter assertion he attributes to insufficient funding. Some even speculate that meditation could have such varied uses as to treat disease. Scientists like Goyal suggest a need for further studies in this area. (Moyer)

What can meditation do for you?

So what should you think of all this? Does meditation work? Although it cannot completely be proven through scientific evidence, I think everyone ought to try the practice. My best friend overcame Major Depressive Disorder with the help of Buddhist meditation and his therapist who prompted him to try it. Now when I say “Buddhist Meditation,” I don’t mean that this is a practice designed solely for Himalayan monks, rather, anyone can do it. Just ask Dan Harris. All it takes is just a few minutes each day to focus on the ‘present moment’ to see a significant impact on your mental and physical well-being. While science cannot guarantee that this works, the opportunity cost is not very lofty at all. Even if you consider yourself to be a generally happy or stable person, meditation could affect your life in ways your never thought possible–especially if you are not a religious person, such as myself. Who knows, it might even give you the tools you need to power through weekly blogs!…And get an ‘A’ 🙂

Works Cited:

Moyer, M. W. (2014). Is Meditation Overrated? Retrieved October 17, 2016, from
Dan Harris interview:
Dan Harris image:
Peace of mind image:
Scientific research: MEDITATION, DEPRESSION and PERFECTIONISM. Retrieved October 17, 2016, from

Ethics in Animal Testing

Today, we saw photos of beagles forcefully inhaling cigarette smoke to determine whether cigarette causes lung cancer. Sure enough, the benign dogs were diagnosed with the disease. But why did we have to use dogs to test this? Why couldn’t we have done the same tests with humans? Well, most people would say: “You can’t do that to a human.” But why not? Why do we value the life of a dog over a human? The correlations between cigarette smoking and lung cancer were astounding. It’s not like we needed to test this through dogs.

But somehow, humans value the life of dogs over humans. I honestly can’t think of a justifiable counter-argument. Why would a human be considered ethically superior to a dog? Is it because our highly developed brains? Is it because we are the dominant species on the planet? Perhaps. But that doesn’t account for our lack of morals in suffocating animals which carcinogens. Dogs are equally capable of compassion, empathy, and love just as humans are. They feel physical pain and suffer in basically the same way that humans do. Can you imagine waking up every day to be forcefully and unwillingly suffocated with cigarette smoke so some ‘superior’ species can determine whether it negatively affects them? Imagine a species more intelligent and capable than humans doing this. Yes, they are ‘superior,’ but we have feelings too. This would be considered utterly reprehensible and downright evil. Yet, we don’t bat an eyelid when it comes to putting species other than our own under these tests.5923645_orig

I feel that we should reevaluate our position when it comes to animal testing. Quite frankly, this is simply unnecessary. There are ways to achieve knowledge and understanding of science without subjecting animals to torture.

People often see PETA as bleeding-heart liberal idealists, who are overly sympathetic with animals. However. I don’t understand how someone could watch this video and still support animal testing like what was done to these beagles, and countless other innocent animals. Look, I’m not telling you to empty your refrigerator and ‘repent for your sins,’ but where is basic human dignity these days? How can something be so important that it is worth taking the lives of those who never asked to be involved. This isn’t a matter of science anymore. We are locking these animals up in cages just to obtain some sort of superficial knowledge that could be easily accessed otherwise with all the latest advancements in technology.

Guitar Playing and Mechanics

I started playing guitar when I was 16, and ever since then, it’s been the focal point of my interests. Initially, I began taking lessons with a local instructor, but later I satiated my ever-expanding desire for technical virtuosity via the internet. Youtube is a bastion for guitar education. I’ve found lessons that range from the very rudiments of the instrument to highly advanced mechanical analysis. One such Youtube whom I found particularly impressive was Troy Grady.


Troy’s Youtube series “Masters in Mechanics” teaches playing down to extreme minutiae. He analyzes the technique of guitar virtuosos, otherwise known as “shredders.” Said shredders include the likes of the Swedish Yngwie Malmasteen, Van Halen’s own Eddie Van Halen, and the late Randy Rhoads. A Yale alumnus, Troy found himself particularly intrigued by the mechanics of 80s heavy metal guitar. From a young age, he sought to emulate such guitarists, but found there was a scientific component not addressed by typical guitar teachers. His lessons stress the importance of downward pick-slanting–a technique utilized by master guitarists to augment tone, precision, and speed.

I was quickly infatuated by his in-depth analyzes of virtuoso guitarists. He uses a self-devised mechanism called “the claw,” which he attaches to the guitar to provide an interesting perspective on the guitarists picking and fretting hands. Troy begins his “Cracking the Code” series with Eric Johnson, famous for his tour de force track “Cliffs of Dover.” Grady teaches you how to use the various picking motions utilized by Johnson himself which include downward pick-slanting, string-hopping, alternate picking, and sweep-picking.

I come from a blues guitar background, which emphasizes the importance of groove and feel. Contrarily, metal-style guitar typically focuses on picking speed and avant-grade methods such as tapping, in which the guitarist uses his picking hand as another fretting device to create violin-like arpeggiation. Troy’s videos really opened up a volume of technique for me to implement into my playing. From watching his videos, I have augmented my physical mechanics and intertwined them with my feel-oriented blues background, effectively expanding my guitar vocabulary to the highest degree. Troy’s scientific analysis of guitar playing incorporates elements of physics to what was once seen as an art strictly limited to being taught from a chiefly instrumental standpoint, where the only learning to be done consists of techniques acquired passed down from player to player. He gives you the tools you need to shred like Eric John, Van Halen, and Yngwie, something that taught him years to decipher, but you can learn within a matter of minutes. This is truly a unique style of teaching that can make good guitar player indeed great.

Caffeine: How Much is Too Much?

Coffee was a part of my regular routine in high school. Upon rolling out of bed, I would drearily meander my way downstairs towards the coffee pot. Although my motor skills are not fully activated during these wee hours of the morning, they’re good enough to pour the grinds into the pot, add some water, and plug in the machine. Within minutes, I am enjoying a freshly brewed cup of joe and ready to conquer the day.

But morning isn’t the only time when I need caffeine; at around lunchtime, it’s back to the pot again, or maybe Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks. And if I’ve got three blog posts to write before tomorrow? Tonight you may find me in the mini-mart purchasing a Starbucks Double Energy Iced Coffee. Or maybe worse: a full-blown Monster Energy Drink.

It’s nights like these when I begin to wonder: how much caffeine can I have before it’s detrimental to my health? Is one cup of coffee a day OK? Will I begin to have high blood pressure if I have too much? Let’s take a look at the research.

According to ConsumerReports, approximately 90% of consumers 18 years and older drink caffeinated beverages daily ( The first thing that comes to my mind when I hear this statistic is: “Well, if everyone’s doing it, and I haven’t seen anyone drop dead because of it, I should be fine.” Perhaps caffeine has a more minute, covert effect on human health. While consumption of the drug may not be a habit that can induce paralysis, doctors typically tell patients to limit their use as much as possible. So we know that it has potential for harm, but how exactly?

The Mayo Clinic recommends having no more than 400 milligrams of caffeine per day for healthy adults, and up to 100 milligrams per day for healthy adolescents. says that 200 milligrams is a safe dose. While the numbers may vary, the organizations report that that health issues typically arise when consuming roughly 500-600 milligrams of caffeine per day. Negative side effects include nervousness, restlessness, irritability, and fast heartbeat–all of which I have personally experienced from caffeine consumption.

So what are the long-term effects of caffeine consumption? Another article from claims a few long term ailments. The first is dehydration; caffeine is a well-known diuretic, drawing out water by increasing urination. In effect, the consumer suffers from decreased organ functionality and ultimately a lack of energy. Another side effect, one I initially believed, is augmented blood pressure levels. Other putative complications may include peptic ulcer irritation and depression, according to the same article. While there are certainly links between the mood variations caused by intermittent caffeine consumption, there is no clear mechanism which provides evidence that caffeine consumption causes depression. It is certainly possible, but more longitudinal studies need to be done in order to better understand this matter.

I have not really come to a clear decision regarding the long-term effects of caffeine consumption, but I still learned a few valuable lessons. I now know to limit myself to roughly 400 milligrams of caffeine per day. I did some research and found that a ‘normal’ cup of coffee (with no added fancy stuff) contains roughly 90-200 milligrams of caffeine, so one cup a day should be OK according to these parameters. I personally believe that more research needs to be done in order to better understand the long-term effects of caffeine consumption, but I don’t think that we should assume that caffeine has no long-term effects. There is a well-known Greek saying: Meden Agan, meaning “Nothing in excess.” I think it is fair to say they were talking about beverages too.





Image retrieved from here

Words about Brain/Science/Music

Howdy. I call myself Alex Cautela and I am from Montclair, New Jersey. I am a freshman in DUS and I am incredibly passionate about music. I play guitar, I sing, and I write songs, and I plan to do that for the rest of my life. I am taking this course because every music-related course I wanted to take was full; additionally, this course fulfills my science requirement and it sounded like an intriguing and practical curriculum. I’m also passionate about becoming anintelligent and wise human being in all aspects of life. The best of both worlds, I guess. The great thing about this class is that I can learn relatively basic scientific concepts without having to deal with the minutia of molecular cell biology or something.

I was always fascinated by astronomy as a child. Mainly because it looked cool and the basic concepts hooked me. For example, I learned that black holes do not suck you in like a vacuum, but you fall in, that ‘time’ operates at different speeds in different parts of the universe (whatever that is), and that this whole ‘universe’ is bigger and older than we (humans) could begin to understand. (Aside: I had a really great astronomy teacher for an extracurricular class in second grade. Here is a link to his webpage.) However, I soon realized out that my brain does not work the kind of way required to be an astronomer. I’m more interested in philosophical thinking than scientific or mathematic understanding. Or maybe I just don’t want to put that much time into studying numbers and things.


(Image: My brain on science)

It’s just pretty boring and there are so many other things I’d rather do with my life–pursuits that I find more valuable. That’s why I’m not a science major. I still appreciate science and everything scientists do, but I feel like I can have a greater impact on the world doing what I love (i.e. music).