Tag Archives: Caffeine

Is Your Kid Over-Caffeinated?

Sodas, coffee, tea, and energy drinks. Each of these is a source of caffeine. Approximately 75 percent of children, adolescents, and young adults in the United States consume caffeine, a compound that stimulates the central nervous system. In small doses, caffeine may help people of all ages feel more alert, awake, or energetic. But what if you have more than just a little? In large doses, caffeine may cause irritability, impaired calcium metabolism, anxiety, rapid heart rate, elevated blood pressure, and sleep problems. In fact, one study found that kids who consumed the most caffeine slept the fewest hours.

Because caffeine is in common beverages like sodas and teas, parents and others may unwittingly offer excessive amounts of caffeine to children. Teens often deliberately consume large amounts. Some teens find that caffeine helps them perform better in school and on tests, says pediatric specialist Angela Lemond, RDN, CSP, LD, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. If your teen carries a heavy academic load, he or she may reach for caffeine-containing foods and beverages to improve concentration during school and then again at night to stay up late studying. Unfortunately, this can push the teen into a cycle of being unable to sleep due to caffeine’s effects–consuming more caffeine to fight fatigue from lack of sleep and then having trouble falling asleep again.

How Much is Too Much?
The Food and Drug Administration has not set guidelines for safe caffeine consumption. The Canadian government, however, recommends the following daily caffeine limits.

Ages 4 – 6 years: 45 mg, about the amount in one can of cola
Ages 7 – 9 years: 62 mg
Ages 10 – 12 years: 85 mg

According to a study in the Journal of Pediatrics, American children consume more than the recommended limit in Canada.

Helping your Kids Limit Caffeine
If your kids act jittery or anxious, or if they have trouble sleeping, reducing their caffeine intake is a smart idea. Because coffee, tea, and soft drinks contribute more caffeine to the diet than other foods and beverages, limiting these is a good place to start. Lemond also recommends steering clear of foods with added caffeine such as energy drinks, jellybeans, gum, and breath fresheners. Children and adolescents should completely avoid these products, she says. If it’s energy your kids are seeking, getting to bed earlier or taking a short nap is more productive than consuming caffeine that offers pep for a short time but may interfere with sleep later that evening.

Caffeine in Selected Foods and Beverages

Food Caffeine (mg)
Coffee, 12 fl oz, coffee shop variety 260
Energy drinks, 8 fl oz 47-163
Espresso, 1 fl oz 64
Candy, semi-sweet chocolate, 1 oz* 18
Hot chocolate, 12 fl oz, coffee shop variety* 20
Hot tea, 1 cup 48
Cola, 12 fl oz 48

*Chocolate and chocolate containing foods are not a major source of caffeine.

Source: EatRight.org; Is Your Kid Over-Caffeinated? by Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE, FAND

Energy Drinks, Coffee Increasing Sources of Caffeine for Kids, CDC Says

Effects of excessive caffeine intake on youngsters aren’t yet known, experts warn.

For today’s kids, caffeine in coffee, soda and energy drinks is easier to get than ever before, a new U.S. government study finds. Researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that children and teens are now getting less caffeine from soda, but more from caffeine-heavy energy drinks and coffee.

“You might expect that caffeine intake decreased, since so much of the caffeine kids drink comes from soda,” said the study’s lead author, Amy Branum, a statistician at the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics. “But what we saw is that these decreases in soda were offset by increases in coffee and energy drinks.”

Although energy drinks remain a small portion of the caffeine children consume, at about 6 percent, five years ago they weren’t even on anyone’s radar, Branum said. “In a very short time, they have gone from basically contributing nothing to 6 percent of total caffeine intake,” she said. Energy drinks have more caffeine than soda, Branum said. “That’s their claim to fame,” she said. “That’s what they’re marketed for.”

Scientists don’t yet understand the effects of excessive caffeine intake on kids, Branum said. “The biggest concern is that there are a lot of questions about how much is too much, and what the adverse effects are,” she said.

The report was published Feb. 10, 2014 in the online edition of the journal Pediatrics. Using data from the 1999 to 2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, Branum’s team estimated that 73 percent of American children consume some level of caffeine each day.

Although much of their caffeine still comes from soda, the proportion has decreased from 62 percent to 38 percent. At the same time, the amount of caffeine kids get from coffee rose from 10 percent in 2000 to 24 percent in 2010, the researchers found. One expert agreed that all this caffeine intake by children is worrisome. Dr. Marielys Rodriguez Varela, a pediatrician at Miami Children’s Hospital, said caffeine’s potential effects include a rapid heart beat, high blood pressure and anxiety. Varela said she is also concerned about how much the added sugar in coffee, soda and energy drinks will contribute to obesity. “You create a habit that will be difficult to cut off,” she said. “It’s not just caffeine, but all the side effects that come along with it.”

“Caffeine doesn’t have a place in the diet of any child or adolescent,” Varela said, echoing policies set forth by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Instead of caffeinated drinks, children should drink water and moderate amounts of juice.

If they need extra energy, they can always get a boost from exercise. “Children should focus on healthy habits, not supplements that don’t make us healthier,” Varela said.

Source: Health Day News; Energy Drinks, Coffee Increasing Sources of Caffeine for Kids, CDC Says by Steven Reinberg