MIAMI, Fla. – It's in many our favorite drinks, but it's also a drug with side effects. Extremely high levels of caffeine can be deadly in kids. Recently, an Ohio teen died from an irregular heartbeat and seizures after ingesting caffeine powder.
Even though that cup of Joe might rev you up, are kids getting a daily jolt, too? A new study in the journal Pediatrics found 75-percent of kids and teens consume caffeine every day.
"A lot of the caffeine advertising is for these kids. They have bright packages. They have really, really cool looking logos," said Metee Comkornruecha, MD, Adolescent Medicine Specialist of Miami Children's Hospital.
But experts say caffeine can cause increased heart rate and blood pressure, insomnia, worsened anxiety, irritability and attention problems in kids.
"Caffeine can also be an appetite stimulant, so that can affect their consumption of food," Comkornruecha explained.
The study found soda was the most common caffeinated beverage choice for older children and teens. For kids between two and five, it was tea. Coffee only accounted for 10-percent of caffeine intake 15 years ago, but increased to 24-percent by 2010.
"There are coffee shops on every single corner now" said Comkornuecha.
While there are no official guidelines for kids, most experts recommend they consume no more than 300 milligrams of caffeine a day. A cup of coffee can have up to 120 milligrams, a soda: 60 milligrams and energy drinks: 200. So don't let your kids become over-caffeinated.
"I think caffeine can definitely disrupt one's life," Comkornruecha said.
The American Academy of Pediatrics was quoted as saying, "stimulant-containing energy drinks have no place in the diets of children and adolescents."
Caffeine, a stimulant that affects kids and adults similarly, is naturally produced in the leaves and seeds of many plants. It is also made artificially and added to certain foods. Caffeine is known to be found in coffee, soda, and energy drinks, but can also be found in marshmallows and jelly beans. It is defined as a drug because it stimulates the central nervous system. At lower levels, it can make people feel more alert and energetic. (Source: http://kidshealth.org/parent/growth/feeding/child_caffeine.html)
REASONS TO LIMIT CAFFEINE: The United States hasn't developed guidelines for caffeine consumption in children, but Canadian guidelines recommend that preschoolers get no more than 45 milligrams of caffeine a day. That's equivalent to the average amount of caffeine found in a single 12-ounce (355-milliliter) can of soda. Here are some reasons to limit kid's caffeine consumption:
- Kids often drink caffeine contained in regular soft drinks. Kids who consume one or more 12-ounce (355-milliliter) sweetened soft drink per day are 60% more likely to be obese.
- Caffeinated beverages often contain empty calories (calories that don't provide any nutrients), and 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 (usually starting 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.
- 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 sweating.
- Abruptly stopping caffeine may cause withdrawal symptoms (headaches, muscle aches, temporary depression, and irritability), especially for those who are used to consuming a lot of it.
- Caffeine can make heart problems or nervous disorders worse, and some kids might not know that they're at risk.
One thing that caffeine doesn't do is stunt growth. Although scientists once worried that caffeine could hurt growth, this isn't supported by research.(Source: http://kidshealth.org/parent/growth/feeding/child_caffeine.html)