Caffeine Cessation: Possible Benefits of a Caffeine Substitute

 

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Gabriel Whitlock
Committee: Dana Emmert, Bob Eckstein, Langdon Martin

Caffeine is the most widely used psychoactive drug in the world. Caffeine is popular among college students who use it to thwart the effects of insufficient sleep to meet the physical and cognitive stressors of the academic lifestyle. Caffeine consumption results in the influx of cortisol, a stress hormone of the human body. This study assessed the effect of the gradual cessation of caffeine on cortisol influx. Human subjects were divided among three main study groups: strictly no caffeine (NOCAF), gradual withdrawal without the use of a substitute (WOSUB), and gradual withdrawal with the use of a substitute (CAFSUB). The study duration consisted of a two week, gradual reduction in caffeine intake whereby the last day prior to the final analysis, participants were caffeine free. Participants were asked to take a general stress questionnaire and provide a saliva sample for analysis at the beginning and end of the study. The saliva samples were analyzed using a salivary cortisol ELISA immunoassay kit to determine the cortisol concentration present. Other data included a general stress score and a caffeine log in which the results were analyzed using an analysis of variance test (ANOVA) to determine the interactional effects of caffeine consumption, general stress, and cortisol concentrations. The correlational results found that seven out of nine gradual withdrawal participants had reduced salivary cortisol concentrations. However, study design limitations may affect the validity of these results.