Children today drink twice as much soda as they did 20 years ago, averaging as much as 20 ounces a day! A large soda not only provides tons of calories and sugar but it also includes at least 100 mg of caffeine. Many parents wouldn’t dream of giving their kids a cup of coffee yet routinely offer them soda, which contains caffeine as well. We also see many families hitting the local café or Starbucks for a café latte or mocha frappuccino loaded with the burst of ‘energy’ we call caffeine.
The truth is, caffeine is everywhere but it is wise to keep kids’ consumption of caffeine to a minimum.
How caffeine affects kids:
Caffeine is a stimulant and a drug that is naturally produced in the leaves and seeds of many plants. Caffeine can also be made artificially. Caffeine is considered a drug because it stimulates the central nervous system. The routine side is a feeling of alertness, but when taken in excess side effects may include:
2) Difficulty concentrating
5) Upset stomach
6) Difficulty sleeping
7) Increased heart rate
8) Increased blood pressure
9) Slight dehydration
12) Muscle tremors
15) Shortened attention span
16) Increased risk of heart problems
Because caffeine’s effects are dependent on body weight, it does not take a lot of caffeine to produce side effects, especially for younger children. Younger kids are more also sensitive to caffeine because they haven’t been exposed to it as much as older kids or adults and have not yet developed a tolerance to its effects.
Beware of withdrawal:
If you decide to cut caffeine out of your diet all together don’t be surprised if you feel withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, muscle aches, and irritability, especially if you are used to consuming a lot. When I was in medical school, I relied on coffee to get me through my exams. Every vacation, I wound up in bed with severe headaches. I finally realized that I was suffering from caffeine withdrawal because I didn’t need the caffeine to give me energy to study and so I wasn’t drinking my usual amount of caffeine! I gave up caffeine and my headaches never returned.
Caffeine takes up to 6 hours to be excreted from the body through the urine, so side effects may last until removed from the body.
More reasons to limit kids’ caffeine consumption:
Obesity: Kids who consume one or more 12-ounce sweetened soft drink per day are 60% more likely to be obese.
Lack of nutrients: Most caffeinated drinks are loaded with empty calories and are high in sugar, but lack the nutrients kids need when growing. More kids are choosing soda over milk now days and are missing out on calcium which helps build bones and teeth.
Tooth Decay: Drinking unhealthy drinks like sweetened beverages can lead to dental cavities from the high sugar content and can lead to erosion of the enamel from the high acidity content.
ADHD: Large doses of caffeine can impact the attention span for children, especially for those diagnosed with attention deficit disorder (ADD).
The United States has not developed guidelines for caffeine intake because many experts believe because there is not enough data to make any conclusive recommendations. The Canadian guidelines recommend that children 6 and under have no more than 45 milligrams of caffeine per day; 10 to 12 year olds have no more than 85 milligrams per day and adults have no more than 300 milligrams per day.
Foods and Beverages with Caffeine
Here are some sources of caffeine to compare:
ITEM AMOUNT CAFFEINE CONTENT
BREWED COFFEE 5 OUNCES 115 mg
COCA BEVERAGE 5 OUNCES 4 mg
COCA-COLA 12 OUNCES 34 mg
COFFEE 8 OUNCES 115 mg
COLD RELIEF MEDICINE 1 TABLET 30 mg
CHOCOLATE MILK 8 OUNCES 5 mg
DARK CHOCOLATE 1 OUNCES 20 mg
DECAF COFFEE 6 OUNCES 3-5 mg
DIET COKE 12 OUNCES 45 mg
DUNKIN DONUTS 16 OUNCE 206 mg
ESPRESSO 2 OUNCES 100 mg
ICED TEA 12 OUNCES 70 mg
JOLT SOFT DRINK 12 OUNCES 71.2 mg
MILK CHOCOLATE 1 OUNCE 6 mg
MOUNTAIN DEW 12 OUNCES 55 mg
NO-DOZ 1 TABLET 100 mg
RED BULL 8.3 OUNCES 80 mg
SNICKERS 1 BAR 60 mg
STARBUCKS COFFEE 16 OUNCE 320 mg
STARBUCKS CHAI TEA LATTE 16 OUNCE 100 mg
TEA, BLACK 6 OUNCES 70 mg
TEA, GREEN 6 OUNCES 35 mg
7-UP 12 OUNCES 0 mg
There is no reason for children to drink or consume caffeinated products. One of the best ways to cut caffeine out of the diet is by not offering it at all. Eliminate soda all together and instead offer water, skim milk, or flavored seltzer. For an occasional treat try offering soda or tea but make sure it is decaffeinated.