That is easily the number one question when it comes to talking about caffeine and children. We usually think that the fuss over it is too much especially when we have more pressing issues to worry about…such as…?#?%?$?…(err, hold on to that thought for a minute).

Let us face it, almost everything we consume has some level of caffeine in it. Teas, sodas, coffee and several other variants of drinks and food. So, we are exposed to it daily…we ingest it daily…we seem alright…why the fuss then?

As we progress in this article we will attempt to answer the question.

Caffeine is a natural stimulant that affects primarily the brain and other organs. It has been credited to some cases of increased blood pressure and faster heart-beat. Other effects could include insomnia, lack of concentration, nervousness, head aches, stomach upsets and jitteriness. However, some will argue that its consumption makes them feel more alert and energetic. Okay.

You see, all that above…is essentially to say this…Caffeine has been classified as a drug, people…Yup. In case you didn’t know…it affects the central nervous system. Ding Ding!

So, this buttresses the fact that you should not be toying with something that has that kind of power over you.

Did You Know?

That caffeine can also be found in chocolate, ice cream, jelly beans, lollipops, beef jerky, marshmallows, gummy bears, energy drinks? There are also caffeine pills, caffeinated lip balm and caffeinated water.

A Little History For You…

  1. It has been used by people since the Stone Age. It has been recorded that people were drinking tea in 2700 BC
  2. People were drinking coffee in 1000 AD.
  3. Chocolate bars have been around since 1876, although some people in what is now Mexico had been eating/drinking chocolate for a lot longer than that.
  4. It is found in the leaves, seeds or fruit of more that 60 plants. Some people still chew the leaves of plants that have caffeine in them just as people did thousands of years ago. which means our Nigerian and African descendants (especially with their kola nut intake) have been getting stimulated way before we knew what it even was.
  5. For about 300 years doctors and scientists have been studying the health effects in our diet.

coffee

That being said, what next?

Some Serious Stuff

A lot of Adults take either tea or coffee or even both. The table below illustrates how much caffeine is ingested.

Product Caffeine Amount
filtered coffee 200-250mg
percolated coffee 100-150mg
instant coffee 60-100mg
decaffeinated coffee 2-4mg
tea 8-90mg
iced tea 12-28mg
average soda drink 30-72 mg
hot chocolate 10mg
energy drinks 150-250mg
average chocolate bar 100gm size 10-30mg

Since we have already established that caffeine is a drug…the more that is consumed, the greater the effect on the consumer. In other words, the smaller the person, the less caffeine necessary to produce side effects.

chocolate major source of caffeine

Major health organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics suggest that children under the age of 12 years should not eat or drink any caffeine-containing foods or drinks. But, according to a 2014 study in the journal Pediatrics, approximately 73 percent of children consume it on a given day. Most of this caffeine comes from …you guessed it…soda.

In addition, coffee and coffee-based drinks are an increasingly prevalent source of caffeine in children’s diets. Energy drinks, pills and foods containing caffeine, such as candy bars, mints and gum, are also more available to kids than ever before.

Scary Facts

A 2015 study of Boston toddlers aged 1 to 2 years published in the Journal of Human Lactation found surprising rates of coffee consumption by these youngsters. Among 1-year-olds, 2.5 percent were drinking coffee. By the time children reached the age of 2, more than 15 percent were consuming coffee. Of these 2-year-olds, about 15 percent consumed as much as 4 ounces, or a half cup, of coffee each day. Babies and toddlers of Hispanic mothers were more likely to drink coffee than children of non-Hispanic mothers, according to the study’s findings.

American Academy of Pediatrics also suggest that for children older than 12 years, caffeine intake should fall within the range of no more than 85 to 100 milligrams per day. However, in comparison, a dose of 400 to 500 mg per day, or four or five cups of coffee per day, is tolerable for many adults, according to the Poison Control Center.

ice cream

Health Risks for children may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, extreme restlessness, a flushed face, frequent urination, uncoordinated thoughts and actions, a high heart rate and an irregular heartbeat. An overdose of caffeine can also lead to seizures and cardiac arrest.

teen reported dead due to caffeine overdose

Caffeine toxicity may be lethal. Death, although rare, may occur in adults who ingest more than 10 grams, according to a 2010 article in Journal of Food Science. We don’t really know the threshold of toxicity for children, nor do we fully understand the effects on the developing brain. Each child (and adult) is different and the threshold for toxicity may vary among individuals.

soda drinks

Here are some other reasons to limit kids’ caffeine consumption:

  1. Kids often consume it from regular soft drinks. Kids who drink one or more sweetened soft drink per day are 60% more likely to be obese.
  1. Caffeinated drinks often contain empty calories, and kids who fill up on them don’t get the vitamins and minerals they need from healthy sources. Too much soda can mean missing the calcium kids need from milk to build strong bones and teeth.
  2. Too many sweetened caffeinated drinks could lead to dental cavities from the high sugar content and the erosion of tooth enamel from acidity.
  3. It is a diuretic that causes the body to eliminate water (through peeing), which may contribute to dehydration. It’s wise to avoid excessive caffeine in hot weather, when kids need to replace fluids lost through sweating.
  4. Abruptly stopping its consumption may cause withdrawal symptoms (like headaches, muscle aches, and irritability), especially for those who consume a lot of it.
  5. It can make heart problems or nervous disorders worse, and some kids might not know that they’re at risk.

So to answer the question…YES! Caffeine consumption really can be that bad for your children.

Prevention is better than cure.

  1. Do not offer toddlers any caffeine-containing products and practice saying no to children under the age of 12.

fruits and veggies; healthy alternatives

2) Little sips and tastes may seem harmless, but they can lead to bigger sips and tastes and be unhealthy and unsafe for young children.

dairy, a healthier option

3) Teach children and teens about the ill effects and where it can be found in food and beverages.

4)Discourage the use of energy drinks and caffeine pills, particularly for those kids who may get exposed to these sources through sports and other activities.

5)Introduce more often fruits and veggies as a healthier alternative

Resources:

http://health.usnews.com/wellness/for-parents/articles/2017-06-01/caffeine-a-growing-problem-for-children

http://www.cyh.com/HealthTopics/HealthTopicDetailsKids.aspx?p=335&np=285&id=1630

http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/child-caffeine.html

 

About the author

Kris Ero

Professionally known as The Wellness Boss, Kris is a trained wellness coach focused primarily on promoting corporate wellness. She is also a Child and Family Wellness Advocate and has appeared on several radio and tv shows. As a wellness entrepreneur, she runs several wellness initiatives. In her spare time, she loves to catch up on her reading and tv shows. An avid foodie, she seeks healthier ways of enjoying what she loves.

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