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Your Child

More PE in School Linked to Higher Math Scores


Students in the Washington D.C. school system who spent more time doing physical activity also increased their standardized math scores significantly, according to a new study American University study.

A law passed in 2010, requires D.C. students to adhere to certain requirements regarding nutrition and physical activity at school to receive federal funding. They are also obligated to report how they implement these programs.

“This finding demonstrates that students’ academic performance improves when there’s a balance between time spent on physical education and time spent on learning,” said Stacey Snelling, dean of American University’s School of Education.

The study divided the city’s elementary schools into four groups based on how much physical education they offered: the lower 25 percent, lower-middle 25 percent, upper-middle 25 percent and upper 25 percent.

The researchers then took the average DC CAS math proficiency score, from the 2012-2013 school year, for each of these four groups and found that schools offering more physical activity posted higher math scores.

The upper 25 percent had an average of 151 minutes of physical education and saw an average math proficiency rate of 56.66. The lower 25 percent had an average of 29 minutes of physical education per week and an average math proficiency rate of 47.53. Some of the findings also were published in the academic journal Appetite. 

Researchers graded each school on how it implemented various aspects of the legislation — including building school gardens, serving healthy lunches and offering ample physical education time — on a 33-point scale. They found that, despite socioeconomic differences, there were no significant variations in how schools performed on the 33-point-scale across the District’s eight wards.

There were certain limitations pointed out in the findings. Researchers said that the data is based on schools’ self-reporting – which can leave room for errors. Several schools have also closed and opened during the five –year study, yielding inconsistent data.

D. C. Council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3), who authored the original 2010 legislation, applauded the report’s findings, adding that although schools effectively provided more nutritious lunches, there is still more room for more physical ­activity.

“When children are fed and they are not hopping all around because their hungry, they’re better learners, and that’s translated throughout,” Cheh. “I was impressed with the findings.”

More schools across the country are taking a second look at adding back PE to students’ school week. Many schools have cancelled PE classes in order to use that time to prepare students for testing. As study after study comes in pointing out the benefits, including higher test scores, of children engaging in some sort of physical activity during the school day, school administrations are beginning take notice.

Source: Perry Stein,


Your Baby

Prenatal Exposure To Pesticides

1.30 to read

Moms exposed to higher levels of pesticides have lower mental development scores. Children whose mothers had higher levels of exposure to a substance found in a commonly used pesticide were more likely to get lower scores on a mental developmental test at 3 years of age than children whose mothers were exposed to lower levels or not at all, new research says.

Megan Horton, a postdoctoral research fellow at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health in New York City, and her colleagues followed 348 mothers from low-income areas of New York City whose prenatal exposure to pyrethroid insecticides -- found in pesticides commonly used around the home -- was tracked. The researchers measured not the common pyrethroid called permethrin but rather piperonyl butoxide (PBO), a chemical added to permethrin that boosts its potency, Horton said. They measured PBO because permethrin is metabolized quickly and difficult to measure, she added. The study authors measured the mothers' prenatal exposure by taking air samples or blood samples. To get the air samples, mothers wore backpacks that collected air from their breathing zone, which was then analyzed. Children were then put into four groups or "quartiles," depending on the level of their mothers' exposures to PBO during pregnancy. At age 3, the children were evaluated using standard scales to assess their cognitive and motor development, according to the study published online Feb. 7 in the journal Pediatrics. "Kids who were in the highest quartile range of exposure to PBO were three times as likely to be in the delayed category, compared to kids with lower exposure," Horton said. Horton's team compensated for factors such as gender, ethnicity, education of the mothers, and toxins such as tobacco smoke in the home. Horton said it's impossible to say what levels of pesticide are safe, partly because many factors come into play, such as the type of pesticide used and the ventilation provided. She did not have data on the frequency of pesticide use. "I don't know whether the mothers used it five times a week or once a week," she added. Pyrethroid insecticides have replaced another class of bug killers, known as organophosphorus (OP) insecticides, Horton said. Increasing pesticide regulations from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have resulted in fewer residential exposures to OP insecticides, she said. But, pyrethroid insecticides have not been evaluated for long-term effects on the body after low-level exposure, she said. Jennifer Sass, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, who reviewed the study but was not involved with it, said the findings ''should convince every parent and want-to-be parent to avoid these pesticides." Horton suggests that parents turn to so-called integrated pest management, which includes common-sense measures to control pests such as eating only in home eating areas, not bedrooms; keeping cracks and crevices in the house repaired to keep out pests; using trash cans with a lid and liner to contain garbage; and storing food properly. You can also find piperonyl butoxide (PBO) in medications used for treating scabies (a skin infestation) and lice infestations of the head, body, and pubic area. Some of the products containing piperonyl butoxide (PBO),are listed below. Check with your physician before using these products if you are pregnant. •       A-200 Lice Control® Topical Spray (containing Piperonyl Butoxide, Pyrethrin) •       Lice-X Liquid® Topical Solution (containing Piperonyl Butoxide, Pyrethrin) •       Pronto® (containing Piperonyl Butoxide, Pyrethrin) •       Pyrinyl® (containing Piperonyl Butoxide, Pyrethrin) •       R & C® (containing Piperonyl Butoxide, Pyrethrin) •       RID® Medicated Shampoo (containing Piperonyl Butoxide, Pyrethrin) •       Stop Lice® Maximum Strength Medicated Shampoo (containing Piperonyl Butoxide, Pyrethrin) •       Tegrin-LT® (containing Piperonyl Butoxide, Pyrethrin) Triple X Pediculicide® Medicated Shampoo (containing Piperonyl Butoxide, Pyrethrin)

Daily Dose

Kids & Too Much TV

1:30 to read

Another recent study has just been released which confirms that children are getting close to 4 hours of background TV noise each day. While many parents are aware of the need to limit their children’s active screen time (which includes TV, video game, telephone texting and computer screens) to no more than 2 hours per day, background TV time may be equally important. The American Academy of Pediatrics also discourages any TV viewing for children under age 2 years. 

*The study from The University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication defines background TV as “TV that is on in the vicinity of the child that the child is not attending to”.  The research looked at TV exposure in 1,454 households with children aged 8 months-8 years. The study found that younger children and African-American kids were exposed to more background TV than other children.  Having background TV noise of any kind can disrupt mental tasks for all and may also interfere with language development in younger children. 

Those households that had the least background TV exposure were those that did not have a TV in the child’s room!! That doesn’t seem to be a surprising finding at all. Many parents leave the TV on in a child’s room to help them sleep, although there are numerous studies to show exactly the opposite effect, TV disrupts sleep. I now routinely ask every parent during their child’s check up if there is a TV in the child’s room. I also ask every older child the same question, and there are many teens who are not happy with me when I encourage their parents to take the TV out of the bedroom of their adolescent. There is just no need to have a TV in the bedroom of children of any age.  I have given up on this discussion with my college aged patients! 

While many parents are doing a good job of monitoring what their children are watching on TV, and how long they are watching, we may not be doing as well when it comes to background TV.  While older kids hear news stories or language that they needn’t be exposed to, a younger child’s language skills may be delayed due to background TV noise. 

So, the kitchen TV needn’t be on while you are making your children their breakfast before school or in the evening while eating dinner. Family dinner is one of the most important times of the day and conversation is the key. No one needs to try to talk over the TV, just turn it off! 

Lastly, keep reading those bedtime stories for children of all ages; this is key to language, and appropriate language at that. 

That’s your daily dose for today.  We’ll chat again tomorrow.

Your Teen

Schools Start Too Early, Teens Sleep Deprived


It’s a battle that is picking up steam, whether to start school a little later so teenagers can get the sleep they need or keeping schedules as they are for the sake of planning before and after school activities.

Research from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) found that teenagers are biologically programmed to go to bed later than most adults and sleep later in the morning.

Last year, the AAP issued a set of guidelines recommending that school schedules are modified across the U.S. to start at 8.30 a.m. This way, children and teens would be able to meet the recommended sleep hours per night during school days.

Fewer than one in five middle and high schools in the United States start at 8:30 am or later, as recommended, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The same recommendations suggested that indeed, the biological rhythm of teenagers particularly is very different than that of adults. While they need 8 and a half to nine and a half hours of sleep per night, their circadian rhythm doesn’t allow them to go to sleep before midnight or a little after.

School nights are particularly difficult for adolescents because in order to get the rest they need, they have to go to bed earlier than their minds and bodies are set to fall asleep.

The CDC released a new study supporting the recommendations of the AAP. According to the findings, 83 percent of U.S. schools still start before 8:30 a.m. On average, the starting time was calculated at 8:03 a.m., based on data collected from 39,700 combined schools, middle schools, and high schools between 2011-2012.

Depriving teens of that sleep could wreak havoc on their academic performance, the CDC said in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

"Getting enough sleep is important for students' health, safety, and academic performance," said Anne Wheaton, lead author and epidemiologist in CDC's Division of Population Health.

"Early school start times, however, are preventing many adolescents from getting the sleep they need."

The issue is driving a heated debate between supporters of later school start times and school administrators.

Safwan Badr, former president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine stated:

“It makes absolutely no sense. You’re asking kids to learn math at a time their brains are not even awake”.

On the other hand, Daniel Domenech, the executive director of the School Superintendents Association stated with regards to changing school starting time:

“It’s a logistical nightmare. This has been going on forever, and kids have been graduation from school and going to college. It certainly doesn’t seem to have hurt them all these years”.

Some experts note that the long-term consequence of sleep deprivation is hurting our teens and has been for quite some time.

Judith Owens, the director of sleep medicine at Boston’s Children Hospital suggests that chronically sleep deprivation characterizes the majority of today’s teens. This results in increased risk of onset depression, substance abuse, unhealthy BMIs. Long-term effects of sleep deprivation result in type 2 diabetes or heart diseases.

There are things that parents can do to help their teens at least rest better if they can’t fall asleep earlier. The first and foremost agitator for sleep is viewing or being on a computer or smartphone right before bed.

Recent studies have shown that the use of any electronic device in the hour before bedtime was associated with an increased risk of taking longer than 60 minutes to fall asleep. In particular, the use of a computer, smartphone or MP3 player in the hour before bedtime was strongly linked with taking longer to fall asleep.

Make your teen’s bedroom a quiet place that can be a retreat at night from busy schedules and social media.

Your teen can take a hot bath or shower before bed to boost deep sleep. Then keep his or her room cool (about 68 F) to cool down the body. One study showed that sleep happens when the body cools. Wakefulness occurs when the body temperature warms up.

Aromatherapy helps some people fall off to sleep. Certain scents are shown to be relaxing such as orange blossom, marjoram, chamomile, and lavender. You can apply these oils before bed or put them on pillows, sheets or in potpourri. If candles are used, make sure they are put out before getting in bed. 

Having a regular schedule can help the body adjust. Going to bed at the same time each night can assist in adjusting the body’s circadian rhythm.  

More high schools are considering changing their schedules to a later start time, but currently most schools are keeping with the typical earlier schedules. You may not be able to convince the school board to start school at little later, but you can help your teen find what works for them at night to help them get the amount of sleep they need to function at their best.

Sources: Bonnie Gleason,




Your Teen

Alcohol-Branded Clothing & Accessories Linked to Youth Alcohol Use


The T-shirts, handbags, backpacks, hats, jackets and sunglasses we wear and carry all say a little something about who we think we are or would like to be. Clothing with slogans and photos, accessories with name –brands or specific designs help express, at least a small way, how we connect with others and want others to connect with us.

From politics to religion to music and movies – we’re not likely to wear something that we philosophically disagree with. That’s pretty much true in all age groups.

So, what does it mean when teens proudly wear clothing and carry products with alcohol-brands up front and center?

According to a large review of different studies on the topic, teens that own caps, shirts, and other merchandise displaying alcohol logos are more likely to drink.

Australian researchers reviewed results from 13 studies looking at alcohol-branded merchandise and teen alcohol use. The research included more than 26,000 kids and teens, mostly from the United States.

Four studies looked specifically at young people who hadn't started drinking alcohol. Those who owned alcohol-branded merchandise were more likely to start drinking a year later, the researchers said.

While the study doesn’t prove causation (teens will drink if they own alcohol-branded items), it does show an association between the two activities.

"It is possible that owning the merchandise makes young people more likely to drink, or that young people who drink are more likely to want to own the merchandise, or a combination of these effects," explained study leader Sandra Jones. She's director of the Centre for Health and Social Research at Australian Catholic University in Melbourne.

Dr. Victor Strasburger, lead author of the American Academy of Pediatrics' Children, Adolescents, and Advertising policy statement, said, "The studies showed that this ownership contributes to onset of drinking, not the amount of drinking.”

“But we know that when teenagers begin drinking, they tend to binge drink, not use good judgment, and drive when drunk or intoxicated," he added.

Because of the study’s findings, Jones believes that promotional alcohol-branded products encourage drinking among adolescents.

"As they transition through adolescence, young people are developing their sense of identity," she said.

"The things that they wear, carry, and consume help to create and convey their desired identity. There is increasing evidence that brands facilitate this by allowing the young person to take on and project the desirable characteristics that are associated with that brand. These characteristics and brands then become a part of their sense of self, as well as the way that others see them," Jones said.

In addition to hats, caps and T-shirts, other examples of alcohol-related products include accessories, such as bags, backpacks, belts, lighters, sunglasses, wallets and key rings. Other promotional items include drinking glasses, utensils, cooler bags, bottle openers and coffee cups, the researchers said.

Depending on the study, ownership of such items ranged from 11 percent to 59 percent of the young participants. Ownership was higher among older children and males, the researchers said.

Most of the studies didn't find any gender differences. But two studies did find that the association between branded merchandise and drinking issues was actually stronger for girls.

Jones noted that company policies and regulations could help prevent the availability of such products for teens. She recommended restricting the sale of alcohol promotional products where the sale of alcohol is allowed, that alcohol-branded clothing not be made in children’s sizes and toys and gimmicks that appeal to children be discontinued.

Jones also noted that it’s not only up to businesses and government to regulate the availability of these products to kids, but parents as well.

"Many of these items are given away for free at promotional events or as gifts with purchase, and parents may hand them on to their children -- or allow others to do so -- without processing the fact that they are providing their child with extended exposure to an advertisement for an alcohol brand," she said.

Strasburger said the media are often irresponsible when it comes to alcohol. "They depict alcohol use as normative behavior, or a solution for complex problems, or show being drunk as funny," he said. "We spend something like $5 million on alcohol advertising every year, then we wonder why so many teenagers drink. It's not rocket science."

The findings were publised online in the April 1st edition of the journal Pediatrics. 

Story source: Don Rauf,




Your Child

Pre-teen Cholesterol Check-Up

1.45 to read

Do you know your child’s cholesterol level? Unless you have a family history of high cholesterol, getting your child’s checked probably hasn’t been high on your list of medical exams.

A panel of experts appointed by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, are recommending that children be tested for high cholesterol by age eleven. They also recommend that children who are overweight, be screened every 2 years for diabetes.

Major medical groups already suggest children, with a family history of high cholesterol or diabetes, be screened early. Children without a family history of heart disease or diabetes have traditionally not been screened until their later years. Times have changed though and because of the childhood obesity epidemic many kids are developing heart disease and Type 2 diabetes at a much younger age.

Fats build up in the heart arteries in the first and second decade of life but usually don't start hardening the arteries until people are in their 20s and 30s, said one of the guideline panel members, Dr. Elaine Urbina, director of preventive cardiology at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.

"If we screen at age 20, it may be already too late," she said. "To me it's not controversial at all. We should have been doing this for years."

An alarming statistic shows how destructive childhood obesity has become. Autopsy studies show that children already have signs of heart disease, long before they show symptoms. By the fourth grade, 10 percent to 13 percent of U.S. children have high cholesterol, defined as a score of 200 or more.

According to the National Cholesterol Education Program's Expert Panel on Blood Cholesterol in Children and Adolescents, the acceptable level for total cholesterol in kids 2 to 19 years old is less than 170 mg/dL. Their LDL cholesterol should be less than 110 mg/dL, HDL levels should be 35 mg/dL or greater, but preferably over 60, and triglycerides should be 150 mg/dL or less.

Doctors recommend screening between ages 9 and 11 because cholesterol dips during puberty and rises later. They also advise testing again later, between ages 17 and 21.

The rise in Type 2 diabetes, in children, has also increased in the last decade. It is hard to detect type 2 diabetes in children, because it can go undiagnosed for a long time; children may have no symptoms or mild symptoms; and because blood tests are needed for diagnosis. That’s why early screening is so important.

The guidelines also say doctors should:

  • Take yearly blood pressure measurements for children starting at age 3.
  • Start routine anti-smoking advice when kids are ages 5 to 9, and counsel parents of infants not to smoke in the home.
  • Review infants' family history of obesity and start tracking body mass index, or BMI, a measure of obesity, at age 2.

There has been some controversy over doctors using terms like overweight and obese when talking with parents and children about their weight. The panel suggests that these are medically correct terms and should be used so that parents and children understand the importance of the problem.

Children whose BMI is in the 85th to 95th percentile should be called overweight, not "at risk for overweight," and kids whose BMI is in the 95th percentile or higher should be called obese, not "overweight; even kids as young as age 2, the panel said.

"Some might feel that 'obese' is an unacceptable term for children and parents," so doctors should "use descriptive terminology that is appropriate for each child and family," the guidelines recommend.

They were released online by the journal Pediatrics.

Your Child

Could More Dietary Fiber Reduce Food Allergies?


In the never–ending search for an answer as to why more Americans – from children to adults- are experiencing food allergies, several new studies suggest that the culprit could be too little fiber in our diets.  

According to the non-profit organization, Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE), 15 million Americans have food allergies. That’s a 50 percent increase from 1997 to 2011. About 90 percent of people with food allergies are allergic to one of eight types of foods; peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, eggs, milk, shellfish and fish. 

So, what is going on that so many people are suffering from food allergies, particularly children? That’s what researchers around the world are trying to find out.  Many studies are beginning to suggest that it’s not just one thing but a combination of factors.

A lack of dietary fiber in the diet may be one of those factors. The notion is based on the idea that bacteria in the gut have the enzymes needed to digest dietary fiber, and when these bacteria break down fiber, they produce substances that help to prevent an allergic response to foods, said Charles Mackay, an immunologist at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia.

So far, the research related to this idea has been done mainly in mice, and dietary factors are unlikely to be the sole explanation for why allergy rates have skyrocketed, researchers say. But if the results were to be replicated in human studies, they would suggest that promoting the growth of good gut bacteria could be one way to protect against, and possibly even reverse, certain allergies, researchers say.

The modern western diet, high in fat, sugar and refined carbs seems to produce a different kind of bacteria in the gut that may be liked to food allergies.  Fiber such as beans, whole grains, nuts, berries, vegetables and brown rice promote the growth of a class of bacteria called Clostridia, which break down fiber and are some of the biggest producers of byproducts called short-chain fatty acids.

In a 2011 study in the journal Nature, researchers found that these short-chain fatty acids normally prevent gut cells from becoming too permeable, and letting food particles, bacteria or other problematic compounds move into the blood.

An overabundance of antibiotic use may also be contributing to food allergies. Not only are people being over-prescribed, we may also be getting extra doses in some of our foods.

Antibiotics, which are widely used in agriculture and for treating ear infections in babies and toddlers, kill the bacteria in the gut. So the combination of antibiotics and low-fiber diets may be a "double whammy," that predisposes people to allergic responses, notes said Cathryn Nagler, a food allergy researcher at the University of Chicago.

The new findings also suggest a way to prevent, or possibly even reverse some allergies. For instance, allergy treatments could use probiotics that recolonize the gut with healthy forms of Clostridia, Nagler said.

In fact, in a small study published in January in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, showed that children with peanut allergies who received probiotics were able to eat the nut without having an allergic reaction, and their tolerance to peanuts persisted even after the treatment.

Many factors may contribute to the rise in food allergies, said Dr. Robert Wood, director of pediatric allergy and immunology at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center in Baltimore. Epidemiological studies have found that having pets, going to day care, having a sibling, being born vaginally and even washing dishes by hand can affect the risk of allergies.

As more and more research is being conducted on food allergies, a bigger picture is starting to emerge about possible causes. Pediatricians and family physicians are keeping a close eye on the new findings to better help their patients. Some of those findings are changing the way physicians are treating food allergies.

For years, doctors told parents of children at a high risk of developing allergies to wait until the children were 3 years old before giving them peanuts or other allergy-inducing foods, Wood said.

"We really thought we knew what we were doing, and it turns out it was 100 percent wrong," Wood said.

If your child suffers from food allergies, you might want to talk to your pediatrician or family doctor about adding more dietary fiber or probiotics to your child’s diet. However, it’s not recommended that you “experiment” on your own because some children’s health problems can be made worse from probiotic use or too much fiber. Be sure and check with your doctor first.

Sources: Tia Ghose,

Your Teen

Mental Health Clues Found in Teen Brain Scans


If you’ve ever wondered why there are so many ups and downs in your teenager’s moods- there’s a very good reason; their brain is still developing. Brain scans from a research team at the University of Cambridge identified the areas of the brain that change the most during the teen years. It’s no surprise that areas associated with complex thought and decision-making are the ones going through a growth spurt during this time.

The scientists also discovered a link between teenage brain development and mental illness, such as schizophrenia.

The team from Cambridge's department of psychiatry scanned the brains of 300 people between the ages of 14 and 24.

They found that basic functions such as vision, hearing and movement were fully developed by adolescence. However, complex thinking processes and decision-making were still in a growth stage.

These areas are nerve centers with lots of connections to and from other key areas.

You can think of the brain as a global airline network that's made up of small infrequently used airports and huge hubs like Heathrow where there is very high traffic.

The brain uses a similar set up to co-ordinate our thoughts and actions.

During adolescence, this network of big hubs is consolidated and strengthened. It's a bit like how Heathrow or JFK have become gradually busier over the years.

Researchers found that genes involved in the “hub” were similar to those associated with mental illnesses, including schizophrenia.

The discovery is in line with the observation that many mental disorders develop during adolescence, according to researcher Dr Kirstie Whitaker.

"We have shown a pathway from the biology of cells in the area through to how people who are in their late teenage years might then have their first episode of psychosis," she told the BBC.

Genetics are not the only reason for mental illnesses. Older studies have also linked stress during childhood and the teenage years as a possible contributor. Recent findings have shown an association between maltreatment, abuse and neglect and brain development during childhood and adolescence. In addition, these types of stressors may also contribute to the emergence of mental illness.

Lead researcher, Professor Ed Bullmore, whose work was funded by the Wellcome Trust, believes the discovery of a biological link between teenage brain development and the onset of mental illness might help researchers identify those most at risk of becoming ill.

"As we understand more about what puts people at risk for schizophrenia, that gives us an opportunity to try to identify individuals that are at risk of becoming schizophrenic in the foreseeable future, the next two to three years, and perhaps to offer some treatment then that could be helpful in preventing the onset of clinical symptoms. "

The study also sheds light on the mood and behavioral changes experienced by teenagers during normal brain development.

"The regions that are changing most are those associated with complex behavior and decision making," says Dr. Whitaker.

"It shows that teenagers are on a journey of becoming an adult and becoming someone who is able to pull together all these bits of information.

This is a really important stage to go through. You wouldn't want to be a child all your life.

This is a powerful and important stage that you have to go through to be the best and the most capable adult that you can be."

The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

Story source: Pallab Ghosh,


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,


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Struggling with feeding your kids healthy (er) meals. Rule of thumb: don't stress over it!


Struggling with feeding your kids healthy (er) meals. Rule of thumb: don't stress over it!

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