Tots as Young as 2 Buzzing on Caffeine Daily, Study Shows

By: Liz Hayes Email
By: Liz Hayes Email

Nearly 75 percent of children and teenagers are consuming some form of caffeine every day. That rate hasn't changed in the last decade or so, but what has is where the caffeine is coming from.

A new government study published in the journal Pediatrics, shows that youth, from age 2 to 19, are getting less caffeine from soda and tea, and more from energy drinks and specialty coffee drinks.

Energy drinks, in particular, have been scrutinized for their lack of nutrition and questionable contents. They're not regulated by the Food & Drug Administration so labels can be deceiving, including how much caffeine is inside.

"In addition to caffeine, some of those energy drinks have other additives," said Kathy Bender, RD, CD, a dietitian with Langlade Hospital. "They have something called guarana which is a stimulant too, it actually has double the caffeine of a coffee bean. It also has taurine - taurine we know a little bit more about," she said.

Taurine is another stimulant, an amino acid that is naturally found in foods like fish.

"A safe level of that is about 500 milligrams," Bender said. "Some of the energy drinks out there have about 2000 milligrams, so significantly more."

Caffeine is a stimulant that makes us feel alert, increases our blood pressure, and if consumed too late in the day makes us stay up at night. It's also addictive.

Many of us depend on our morning cup of joe. For adults, two or three cups is no big issue, but for children experts recommend limiting the stimulating substance.

"Canada feels adolescents should limit their caffeine to 100 milligrams per day which is about the equivalent in maybe two 12 ounce cans of soda or one cup of coffee, and then for preschoolers it should be no more than 45 milligrams a day, which is about the equivalent of an ounce and a half of chocolate," Bender said, who noted that America doesn't have a caffeine recommendation

She says a better alternative is water or low-fat milk. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children do not consume caffeine.

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