Insights & Actions for Healthy Living

Should my teen drink beverages with caffeine?

Interesting question. When I was growing up, drinking coffee or any ‘grown up’ drink was never allowed. It seems these days even young children are given coffee and soda containing caffeine not to mention other specialty beverages which contain a good quantity of caffeine such as energy drinks.

A recent study linked energy drinks to hyperactivity in kids which comes as no surprise because caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant. In fact, the study showed that when drinking an energy drink, teens were at 66% greater risk for hyperactivity and inattention.

In addition to the caffeine, most of these beverages were high in added sugar as well. The greater amount of these beverages consumed, the greater the level of hyperactivity. In the study, the average intake was two beverages. As a result the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended that children not consume any energy drinks and also limit sugar sweetened beverages.

Beverages that have caffeine:

  • coffee at about 80 mg caffeine in 8 ounces
  • decaffeinated coffee has 2-25 mg caffeine
  • soft drinks contain 23-69 mg caffeine in 12 ounces
  • brewed tea contains about 47 mg caffeine in an 8 ounce cup of black and 25 mg in green tea
  • energy drinks contain anywhere from 60 to 425 mg caffeine

Don’t forget some foods contain caffeine as well including chocolate, energy gum (yep, gum), and other boosted candies.

Unfortunately, caffeine at low levels can give a person a feeling of increased energy but the affect they have on children/teens can include jitteriness, headache, increased heart rate, difficulty sleeping and trouble concentrating. None of these symptoms are what parents want their children to experience especially during the school day.

There are many beverage options that don’t contain caffeine and added sugar and those should be our priority for our kids and encouraged by our teens who may be trying to fit in with peers or be a little independent. Explaining the risks and your concerns to older teens may help them understand your resistance and realize their health and school performance is worth finding other beverage choices.

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