I will be honest with you. I’m not a really productive member of society until I’ve had 16 ounces of coffee. As adults, some of us have a caffeine fix the morning. But should we be concerned that kids are trending towards a serious caffeine addiction with a Starbucks on every corner and a convenience store full of energy drinks?
A new study from Pediatrics released online today evaluated the trends on caffeine intake in American children and adolescents. Surprisingly, the average caffeine intake hasn’t increased in the last decade. The study found that 63 percent of toddlers and preschool children, and almost 75 percent of older children consumed caffeine daily. While the overall amount of caffeine intake didn’t change significantly, the sources of caffeine did. The study reported that the intake of caffeine in children’s diets has decreased from soda, but increased through energy drinks and coffee drinks. Intake from tea remains the second highest source of caffeine.
So the big question…is caffeine safe for kids? Caffeine is a drug found naturally in some plants (think coffee beans and tea leaves), and added to many other drinks (those neon-colored energy drinks). The myths were dispelled about caffeine intake stunting growth, but the experts still say the answer is a big “no.” The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages the consumption of caffeine for all children in adolescents, and the United States has no guidance on the amount of caffeine that is safe for children.
Caffeine, even in small amounts, can have negative effects on children. Common side effects in children include diarrhea, difficulty sleeping, jitteriness, changes in blood pressure, and headaches. An even bigger problem with caffeine consumption in children is that the beverages often contain minimal nutrients and added sugar, and may replace healthier beverages like milk and water. Consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages also increases a child’s risk of obesity, and many popular commercially prepared caffeinated drinks have added sugars and sweeteners.