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Caffeine and Kids: A Bad Fix

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The need for caffeine is no longer just for us tired moms. Now our kids are jonesing, too.

Teens drinking coffee

Have you noticed a change at your local coffee place? Instead of standing behind other harried adults trying to get their caffeine fix before work, you're now standing behind a couple of boys (think Jonas Brothers), trying get their latte fix before school? How OLD are you anyway?!?

More and more teenagers (well, kids) are standing in line ordering lattes, double caps, even red eyes (a cup of coffee with an added shot of espresso.) Heck, most of us didn't start experimenting with coffee until grad school!

Hey, we remember being tired in high school, too. (Did we ever want to get out of bed??) But we have to wonder: Can caffeine really be good for a growing kid? We asked ML pediatrician Dr. Cara Natterson how caffeine may affect your child. Here's what she had to say:

  • The jury is out on whether caffeine really demineralizes (thins) the bones. Some studies suggest it does; some say it doesn't.
  • Caffeine works best at low to moderate doses, increasing alertness, energy, and concentration; speeding and clarifying the flow of thought; increasing focus; and improving coordination.
  • Caffeine is a diuretic and can cause a little bit of dehydration (almost always very mild); it is also associated with headaches.
  • The main issue with caffeine and children is that caffeine tends to show up in drinks that are high in sugar and calories. These drinks (especially sodas) are associated with weight gain and, ultimately, obesity.
  • Worldwide the average person consumes 76mg of caffeine per day. But in the US and Canada this number jumps to around 220mg, and in Sweden and Finland people ingest more than 400mg a day (and almost all of this is from coffee).
  • At high doses, negative effects begin to take over. Excessive caffeine can make you jittery or nervous; you can have trouble sleeping; it can make you feel anxious or restless; it can cause problems with concentration; it can upset the stomach; it can increase your heart rate (sometimes making it feel like your heart is pounding) or raise your blood pressure; and it can cause headache. This is generally not enough to do serious damage but enough to feel awful.
  • People used to think that caffeine stunted growth, but this turns out to be untrue.

Bottom line: Talk to your kids about their caffeine intake and warn them of the harmful side effects, not to mention the unpleasant coffee breath that their current crush may not appreciate!

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7 comments so far | Post a comment now
Wendi January 26, 2009, 11:01 AM

My kids 11 and 13 are only allowed 1 a day on the weekends and nothing during the week. They really just don’t need it. They are young and do not need to start a bad habbit already.

Sheila January 26, 2009, 12:30 PM

My children are 4, 8, 13, 14 and 17. Their whole lives they have only been allowed caffeine-free soda and it wasn’t very often…more of a treat or when out to dinner. My oldest son drinks Starbucks once in a while now, and I’m sure he drinks regular sodas during lunch at school. But the other kids are happy to get a root beer, orange soda or sprite.

me January 26, 2009, 12:44 PM

i take my 4 y/o daughter to dance at the rec center at 3 o’clock. by 3:30 the place is hopping with middle school kids from down the street jonesing for their afternoon cup of coffee!! the rec center keeps coffee out all day in the lobby and it’s crazy to see these kids come in just for that. then i get to hear them talk about how tired they are and “i need this so bad”, it’s ridiculous. take vitamins and go to bed!

Anonymous January 27, 2009, 10:45 AM

That’s why kids have so many sleep problems

ashley January 28, 2009, 11:00 AM

I let my son drink tea sweetened with sweet n low or splenda, and sugarfree root beer or sunkist and he absolutely LOVES fresca. No caffeine or sugar. The tea doesn’t really affect him, I don’t make it very strong. I can’t believe that kids are liking coffee!! I’m 27 and don’t even like it. I like cappuccino but don’t drink it bc of all the calories. I agree with me above, take vitamins and go to bed!!

Anonymous October 1, 2009, 4:50 AM

i give my 4 and five year olds energy drinks because they play alot of sports, so i dont see any problem with it. yes, they do get really jumpy, but i dont care.

網路攝影機 December 23, 2010, 12:51 AM

Gonna follow your fitness and bodybuilding advice to be #1 in the world!! MOVE OVER JAY CUTLER!!!!

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