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Microsoft word - caffeine and children.docMost parents wouldn't dream of giving their kids a toasty cup of coffee, but they may routinely serve soft drinkscontaining caffeine. Although it's likely that your child will ingest caffeine at some time, it's a good idea to keepcaffeine consumption to a minimum, especially in younger children.
Although the United States hasn't yet developed guidelines for caffeine intake and kids, Canadian guidelinesrecommend that preschool children get no more than 45 milligrams of caffeine a day. That's equivalent to theaverage amount of caffeine found in a 12-ounce (355-milliliter) can of soda or four 1.5-ounce (43-gram) milkchocolate bars.
What's Caffeine and How Does It Affect Kids?
A stimulant that affects children and adults similarly, caffeine is a drug that's naturally produced in the leaves
and seeds of many plants. Caffeine is also made artificially and added to certain foods. Caffeine is defined as a
drug because it stimulates the central nervous system. At lower levels, caffeine can make people feel more
alert and like they have more energy.
In both kids and adults, too much caffeine can cause:
jitteriness and nervousness upset stomach headaches difficulty concentrating difficulty sleeping increased heart rate increased blood pressure Especially in young children, it doesn't take a lot of caffeine to produce these effects.
Other reasons to limit kids' caffeine consumption include:
Consuming one 12-ounce (355-milliliter) sweetened soft drink per day increases a child's risk of obesity Not only does caffeine contain empty calories (calories that don't provide any nutrients), kids who fill up on caffeinated beverages don't get the vitamins and minerals they need from healthy sources, putting themat risk for developing nutritional deficiencies. In particular, children who drink too much soda (which usuallystarts between the third and eighth grades) may miss getting the calcium they need from milk to buildstrong 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 the enamel of the teeth from the acidity. Not convinced that sodas canwreak that much havoc on kids' teeth? Consider this: One 12-ounce (355-milliliter) non-diet, carbonatedsoft drink contains the equivalent of 10 teaspoons of sugar (49 milliliters) and 150 calories.
Caffeine is a diuretic that causes the body to eliminate water (through urinating), which may contribute to dehydration. Caffeine may be an especially poor choice in hot weather, when children need to replacewater lost through perspiration.
Abruptly stopping caffeine may cause withdrawal symptoms (headaches, muscle aches, temporary depression, and irritability), especially for those who are used to consuming a lot.
Caffeine can aggravate heart problems or nervous disorders, and some children may not be aware that One thing that caffeine doesn't do is stunt growth. Although scientists once worried that caffeine could hinder achild's growth, this concern isn't supported by research.
Which Foods and Beverages Contain Caffeine?
Although kids get most of their caffeine from sodas, it's also found in coffee, tea, chocolate, coffee ice cream or
frozen yogurt, as well as pain relievers and other over-the-counter medicines. Some parents may give their
children iced tea in place of soda, thinking that it's a better alternative. But iced tea can contain as much sugar
and caffeine as soda.
Here's how some sources of caffeine compare: Item Amount of Item Amount of Caffeine
Jolt soft drink
brewed coffee (drip method)
chocolate milk beverage
cold relief medication
*denotes average amount of caffeine
Source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration and National Soft Drink Association
What's Caffeine Sensitivity?
Caffeine sensitivity refers to the amount of caffeine that will produce an effect in someone. This amount varies
from person to person. On average, the smaller the person, the less caffeine necessary to produce side
effects. However, caffeine sensitivity is most affected by the amount of daily caffeine use. People who regularly
drink beverages containing caffeine soon develop a reduced sensitivity to caffeine. This means they require
higher doses of caffeine to achieve the same effects as someone who doesn't drink caffeinated drinks every
day. So, the more caffeine your child takes in, the more caffeine he or she will need to feel the same effects.
In addition to being more susceptible to the effects of caffeine based on size, small children are more sensitiveto caffeine because they haven't been exposed to it as much as older children or adults. Caffeine movesthrough the body within a few hours after it's consumed and is then passed through the urine. It's not stored inthe body, but your child may feel its effects for up to 6 hours if he or she is sensitive to it.
Cutting Caffeine Out of the Equation
Can you help your child conquer caffeine? Absolutely! The best way to cut caffeine (and added sugar) from
your child's diet is to eliminate soda. Instead, offer water, milk, flavored seltzer, and 100% fruit juice. For added
convenience, give your child water in squeeze bottles to carry around. Of course, you can still serve the
occasional soda or tea - just make it caffeine free. And be on the lookout for hidden caffeine by checking the
ingredient list on foods and beverages.
For older kids or teens who may be getting more caffeine than they should, it's important to watch their caffeineconsumption. If your teen has taken up a coffee-drinking habit, one cup a day can easily turn into several (asmost adults know), especially if your teen is using coffee to stay awake during late-night study sessions.
The best way to reduce your child's caffeine intake is to cut back slowly. Otherwise, he or she could getheadaches and feel achy, depressed, or just downright lousy. Try cutting your child's caffeine consumption bysubstituting non-caffeinated drinks for caffeinated sodas and coffee (water, caffeine-free sodas, and caffeine-free teas). Keep track of how many caffeinated drinks your child has each day, and substitute one drink perweek with a caffeine-free alternative until he or she has gotten below the 100-milligram mark.
As you're cutting back the caffeine, your child may feel tired. The best bet is for your child to hit the sack, notthe sodas: It's just your child's body's way of saying that more rest is necessary. Don't worry - your child'senergy levels will return to normal in a few days.
And feel free to let your child indulge in a sliver of chocolate cake at birthday parties or a cup of tasty hot cocoaon a cold day - these choices don't pack enough caffeine punch to be harmful. As with everything, moderationis the key to keeping your kid's caffeine consumption under control.
Source:http://kidshealth.org/parent/nutrition_fit/nutrition/caffeine.htmlReviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MDDate reviewed: January 2005
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