According to a newly published study in the journal Pediatrics, caffeine consumption among children and adolescents remained relatively steady over a 10 year period examined, but the sources of the caffeine did not, as energy and coffee drinks rose to become more of a contributor to caffeine use than ever before among kids. While soda still leads the way as the caffeine vehicle of choice among children and adolescents, the changing landscape of delivery devices for the substance has peaked some interest.
Researchers with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) examined reports from the years 1999-2010 of children and adolescents and their parents as to what foods and beverages they consumed. They looked at a total of 22,000 reports for young people ages 2-22 and found that nearly three-quarters of them, 73 percent, consumed some caffeine on a daily basis. The average amount consumed when considering all age groups was similar to that present in about one cup of coffee or two sodas each day, for the youngest children studied it was about one-quarter of that amount.
Consuming caffeine in the form of soda was overwhelmingly the most common way of accessing the substance for all ages of young people in the study, other than for those under five, where it fell to second behind tea. Overall, soda consumption declined over the period of time studied, as did caffeine intake from the beverage, dropping from 62 percent to 38 percent. Before health advocates rejoice, however, it should be noted that caffeine consumption through energy and coffee drinks was on the rise for kids and made up for the deficit.
Those participants ages 19-22 reported the highest percentage of daily caffeine intake coming from energy drinks at 10 percent, while overall the beverages were responsible for 6% of total consumption by 2010. Consumption of energy drinks was not enough to be a measurable category at the time that the study began in 1999. Coffee drinks were credited with about 10 percent of caffeine consumption among those studied in 1999, but that number jumped to 24 percent by 201o.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends against caffeine consumption by young people and has strongly stated that the inclusion of energy drinks in the diets of children and adolescents is not appropriate. A spokesperson has said that caffeine offers no nutritional value to the diets of young people. Though caffeine has been dubbed safe for human consumption by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), safe levels of consumption for children have not been defined and the FDA announced that it would begin investigating the safety and use of caffeine in foods and beverages further last spring. Caffeine is now found in a wide variety of unexpected food sources including in marshmallows, jelly beans and other candies.
Overuse of caffeine is associated with a variety of health problems including increases in anxiety and blood pressure as well as hyperactivity. Reports of “caffeine toxicity” leading to death, particularly among adolescents, after consuming large amounts of the additive are also raising eyebrows. As consumption of caffeine-containing energy and coffee drinks by kids continues to rise, more studies will no doubt be undertaken to continue to monitor overall intake and its potential impact on long-term health.
By Michele Wessel