Parenting in 'caffeine nation'

Published in Pediatrics, For the Health of It Author: Andrew Maloney, MD

Pediatrician
CentraCare Clinic – Health Plaza Pediatrics

Caffeine is a regular part of our modern world. With so many coffee shops and energy drinks around, it may be easy to accept caffeine as commonplace. And easy to forget that there are serious, negative effects to drinking too much of it — especially on growing minds and bodies.

Caffeine is a stimulant. When consumed, it is absorbed by all body issues and can increase heart rate, blood pressure, anxiety and trigger abnormal heart rhythms. Drinking too much caffeine also can make you feel dehydrated and cause sleeping problems.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has recommended that adolescents not consume any products marketed as energy drinks due to caffeine and other potentially harmful additives. However, approximately 30 to 50 percent of adolescents still reported consuming them.

The American Academy of Pediatrics suggest that children under 12 years of age not consume any caffeine. And among older children ages 12-18, they should not exceed 100 mg of caffeine per day.

Given some of the choices out there, it doesn’t take very much to exceed this limit. Consider the following:

  • One 16 oz. bottle of original Monster Energy Drink contains 160 mg. of caffeine
  • A venti nonfat Starbucks caramel macchiato contains 150 mg.
  • A single 8.2 oz. can of Red Bull contains 80 mg.
  • One 12 oz. can of Mountain Dew contains 55 mg.

In addition to the negative effects of caffeine, each of these options contains large amounts of added sugars that don’t have the nutritional value to appropriately benefit one’s growth and development.

Among the things that parents can do to educate their children and encourage healthy habits include:

  • Pay attention to what your kids consume. If your teen buys beverages at school or at the store, ask them what they select.
  • Talk with your kids about the danger of drinking too much caffeine and the added sugars in many popular beverages.
  • Offer healthy drink options at home, such as milk and water.
  • If you and your teenage child do decide to drink caffeinated beverages, consider tea. With green tea containing about 25 mg. of caffeine and black tea averaging 40-50 mg. of caffeine per an 8 oz. serving, there are many healthy options with no added sugars or calories.
  • Be a good role model and be aware of your own caffeine consumption.