Most adults start off their mornings with a big steamy cup of caffeine- oh I mean coffee- just to get moving. We wouldn’t even think about passing that same steamy cup of coffee to our kids but often times we pass around sodas and other sugary drinks without a moment’s pause. So how exactly does caffeine affect our kids and how much is healthy?
The United States hasn’t developed official guidelines to monitor caffeine intake for our kids but recommends that we keep our kids’ caffeine consumption to a minimum. Canadian guidelines recommend that preschooler get no more than 45 milligrams of caffeine per day. 45 milligrams is equivalent to the caffeine found in an average 12 ounce can of soda or one 1.5 ounce chocolate bar.
Caffeine is officially referred to in the medical community as a drug due to its stimulating effects on the nervous system. Coffee is a stimulant that affects adults and kids similarly. At low levels it can make most people feel alert and more energetic. However, if too much caffeine is consumed by an adult or a child it can cause jitteriness and nervousness, an upset stomach, headaches, difficulty concentrating, difficulty sleeping, increased heart rate and increased blood pressure.
Below is a compilation from kidshealth.org of other reasons it’s a good idea to limit your kid’s caffeine consumption:
Kids who consume one or more 12-ounce (355-milliliter) sweetened soft drink per day are 60% more likely to be obese.
Not only do caffeinated beverages contain empty calories (calories that don’t provide any nutrients), but kids who fill up on them don’t get the vitamins and minerals they need from healthy sources, putting them at risk for nutritional deficiencies. In particular, kids who drink too much soda (which usually starts between the third and eighth grades) may miss getting the calcium they need from milk to build strong bones and teeth.
Drinking too many sweetened caffeinated drinks could lead to dental cavities (or caries) from the high sugar content and the erosion of tooth enamel from acidity. Not convinced that sodas can wreak that much havoc on kids’ teeth? Consider this: One 12-ounce (355-milliliter) non-diet, carbonated soft drink contains the equivalent of 10 teaspoons of sugar (49 milliliters) and 150 calories.
Caffeine is a diuretic that causes the body to eliminate water (through urinating), which may contribute to dehydration. Whether the amount of caffeine in beverages is enough to actually cause dehydration is not clear, however. It may depend on whether the person drinking the beverage is used to caffeine and how much caffeine was consumed that day. To be on the safe side, it’s wise to avoid excessive caffeine consumption in hot weather, when kids need to replace water lost through perspiration.
Abruptly stopping caffeine may cause withdrawal symptoms (headaches, muscle aches, temporary depression, and irritability), especially for those who are used to consuming a lot.
Caffeine can aggravate heart problems or nervous disorders, and some kids may not be aware that they’re at risk.
One thing that caffeine doesn’t do is stunt growth. Although scientists once worried that caffeine could hinder growth, this isn’t supported by research.
According to the U.S Food and Drug Administration kids can be exposed to caffeine in any of the following forms: coffee, tea, chocolate, coffee ice cream, frozen yogurt, pain relievers and other over-the-counter medicines. The best way to cut caffeine from your child’s diet is to eliminate soda. Instead of serving your kids soda try to stick with water, milk, flavored seltzer or 100% fruit juice. It’s alright to serve the occasional soda or tea, just try to make it non-caffeinated. It’s OK to let your kids indulge in a piece of chocolate cake at birthday parties or a cup of tasty hot cocoa on a cold day- these treats don’t pack enough of a caffeine punch to be harmful. As with everything, moderation is the key to keeping your kids’ caffeine consumption under control.