If you think caffeine is only found in pick-me-up adult beverages, you would be mistaken. Caffeine is a powerful stimulant which not only can be found in coffee and soda pop; but chocolate, cold medicines and some pain relievers contain it as well.
Caffeine is a Drug
The Nemours Foundation reports caffeine may be fine for adults, but can have ill health effects on kids, especially younger children. Some of symptoms may be a jumpy or twitchy feeling, or an increase in heart rate and blood pressure. Nausea, headaches and difficulty sleeping or concentrating in school can also be related to children consuming caffeine.
“The United States hasn’t developed guidelines for caffeine intake and kids, 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 12-ounce (355-milliliter) can of soda or four 1.5-ounce (43-gram) milk chocolate bars,” states Nemours Foundation.
Caffeine is considered a stimulant, or drug, since it stimulates the central nervous system. The adrenalin rush for an adult is similar to what children experience. The problem is it takes quite a bit less caffeine for a child to feel these effects than adults.
Findings in Recent Research
- Children are 60% more likely to be obese if they drink one or more 12-ounce sweetened soft- drinks every day.
- Children who drink these caffeinated beverages do not get enough calcium from milk, which is necessary for healthy teeth and bones.
- Replacing water and milk with sweetened caffeinated drinks is also damaging to your child’s teeth. The high amount of sugar from these beverages is shocking and incredibly acidic, which erodes tooth enamel. This can lead to dental cavities (caries).
- Caffeine acts as a diuretic by eliminating excess water from the body via the kidneys. If too much caffeine is consumed, dehydration can occur.
- In regards to the wives tale of caffeine stunting your growth, it is a fallacy. There is no research to support this; however, I like to tell my kids that it does since I am 5 feet tall. Puts the fear in them!
- Normally caffeine will pass out of the body within a couple of hours; but if a child is sensitive to it, they could feel the stimulant up to 6 hours.
Parents have to take an active part in what is consumed by their children. Offering water, low-fat milk, and small quantities of 100% fruit juice are better substitutes for the sugary, caffeinated drinks. Older children can have an occasional soda, but if the other choices were all that was available when they were younger, they may prefer it as an adolescent.
Finally, just because chocolate has trace amounts of caffeine in it, don’t have your child pass on that hot fudge sundae, or say “No, thanks!” to a S’more while sitting around the campfire with friends. Moderation is always key for everything you put in your body!
Source: HealthDay News (NIH), October 25, 2010