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Your Child

Kids and Caffeine

2.00 to read

While sipping on a coffee-laced Frappuccino, I’m reading about a current study on caffeine and kids. It made me think about my own dependence on caffeine and when it started. For as long as I can remember, my parents would drink several cups of coffee in the morning before going to work, and even as late as right before they retired for the night.  I suspect my mother had a cup while I was busy being born.

I can’t remember exactly when I joined the family coffee drinking ritual, but I know I was pretty young.  Fall and winter demanded hot steaming cups of coffee and iced coffee helped cool the torturous Texas summers. Spring was a combination of both. Sometimes I think that by now, there’s probably coffee bean residue percolating in my blood stream. 

I kind of wish that I’d never started drinking coffee, because it’s the caffeine I really crave- not necessarily the taste of the brew.  When I’ve tried to quit, my body and mind rebels with headaches and bad attitudes. Which brings me back to the study on kids and caffeine.

Researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that children and teens are now getting less caffeine from soda, but more from caffeine-heavy energy drinks and coffee.

"You might expect that caffeine intake decreased, since so much of the caffeine kids drink comes from soda," said the study's lead author, Amy Branum, a statistician at the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics. "But what we saw is that these decreases in soda were offset by increases in coffee and energy drinks."

Not too long ago, energy drinks were just a fad, something that was more likely to give you the shakes than boost your energy level. That was before they were tweaked and bottled or canned in fruity flavors, sugary beverages and clever advertising. Once kids (and adults) got a taste of the “new and improved” tasty stimulates, the caffeinated beverages began to become a part of every day life – at least Monday through Friday when school and work beckoned.

"In a very short time, they have gone from basically contributing nothing to 6 percent of total caffeine intake," Branum said.

“Energy drinks have more caffeine than soda,. That's their claim to fame," she said. "That's what they're marketed for."

So, what effect does excessive caffeine intake have on our kids? Scientists are not sure yet. There are concerns and a lot of questions about the possible adverse consequences for kids who are still developing.  Caffeine addiction, obesity from sugar heavy beverages, high blood pressure, rapid heart beats and anxiety are some of the side –effects researchers are exploring. 

Using data from the 1999 to 2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, Branum's team estimated that 73 percent of American children consume some level of caffeine each day.

Although much of their caffeine still comes from soda, the proportion has decreased from 62 percent to 38 percent. At the same time, the amount of caffeine kids get from coffee rose from 10 percent in 2000 to 24 percent in 2010, the researchers found.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states that energy drinks are never appropriate for children or adolescents and in general, caffeine-containing beverages, including soda, should be avoided. The AAP suggests that children should drink water or moderate amounts of juice instead.

The genie is probably out of the preverbal bottle as far as some adolescents and college-aged kids are concerned.  Although, if they are more aware of the possible health risks associated with excessive caffeinated beverages, they may decide to look at healthier energy producing sources such as exercise, meditation and more rest.

Where parents can have the most influence is with their younger children.  Refraining from purchasing caffeinated products (there’s even “energy” gum) and keeping them out of the home is a good first step.

And by all means, avoid introducing your kids to coffee at a young age. It might seem kind of cute, but twenty years down the road, they may wish you hadn’t slid that first cup of java their way.

The report was published in the February edition of the online journal Pediatrics.

Sources: Steven Reinberg,  http://www.webmd.com/parenting/news/20140210/energy-drinks-coffee-increasing-sources-of-caffeine-for-kids-cdc-says

www.aap.org

Your Teen

What do Energy Drinks Actually Do to the Body?

2:00

There’s been a lot of discussion over whether caffeine-spiked “Energy Drinks” are really safe for consumption, particularly for kids and young adults.  Although many manufacturers add the advisory statement “not recommended for children, pregnant or nursing women and persons sensitive to caffeine” on their label, it often goes ignored.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports that as these drinks have become more popular, the incidences of caffeine related overdoses and deaths have increased.

In one heartbreaking example, 14-year-old Anais Fournier died from cardiac arrest due to caffeine toxicity after consuming two 24- ounce cans of Monster energy drink a day apart.

While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been investigating whether there is causal link to the drinks and health problems, Mayo Clinic researcher Anna Svatikova and her colleagues wanted more information about exactly what happens in your body after you consume one of the drinks.

She and her team recruited 25 volunteers. All were young adults age 18 or older, nonsmokers, free of known disease, and not taking medications. They were asked to drink a 16-ounce can of a Rockstar energy drink and a placebo -- with the same taste, texture, color and nutritional contents but without the caffeine and other stimulants -- within five minutes on two separate days.

The energy drink had the following stimulants: 240 mg of caffeine, 2,000 mg of taurine and extracts of guarana seed, ginseng root and milk thistle. All typical ingredients associated with energy drinks.

Researchers took numerous measurements first before they drank and 30 minutes after. With the placebo, there was very little change. With the energy drink, however, many of the changes were marked:

•       Systolic blood pressure (the top number) - 6.2 percent increase

•       Diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) - 6.8 percent increase

•       Average blood pressure - 6.4 percent increase

•       Heart rate - none

•       Caffeine in blood - increase from undetectable to 3.4 micrograms/mL

•       Norepinephrine level (the stress hormone, which can give you the shakes when you have too much caffeine) in blood - increase from 150 pg/mL to 250 pg/ML

Writing in JAMA, the researchers said that these changes may predispose those who drink a single drink to increased cardiovascular risk.

This may explain why a number of those who died after consuming energy drinks appeared to have had heart attacks.

They also exposed the volunteers to two-minute physical, mental, and cold stressors after consuming the energy drinks to see how that might affect blood pressure and other body functions.

The physical stressor involved asking participants to squeeze on a handgrip; the mental one to complete a series of mathematical tasks as fast as possible; and the cold one immersing their one hand into ice water. Interestingly, there was no further change.

Another thing that is typically overlooked when people choose one of these drinks is the serving size. A 16-ounce can is two servings. A 24-ounce can has three servings. Caffeine and sugar content is often listed per serving. But honestly, how many people drink a third or half a can at a time? Besides caffeine, other stimulants are often added to energy drinks such as Ginseng and Guarana. Most people have no idea what they are, what they do and if they negatively interact with medications.

The American Beverage Association defends the drinks and said in a statement  that "there is nothing unique about the caffeine in mainstream energy drinks, which is about half that of a similar sized cup of coffeehouse coffee" and that drinking coffee would have produced similar effects.

“The safety of energy drinks has been established by scientific research as well as regulatory agencies around the globe. Just this year the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) confirmed the safety of energy drinks and their ingredients after an extensive review," the organization said.

It’s up to parents to decide whether these drinks are beneficial to their family or if they should re-think purchasing one for themselves or their child. A family discussion about the pros and cons of energy drinks with pre-teens and teenagers could give the kids the information they need to make a good choice.

Source: Ariana Eunjung Cha, http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleID=2469194

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