For years and, despite mixed appeal, caffeine has been the stimulant of choice among people of all ages to stay afloat amongst the hustle and bustle that is everyday life. The drug consistently receives high levels of popularity through its incorporation into various beverages, including soft drinks, coffee, tea, and energy drinks. To date, caffeine is the most widely used drug in the entire world.
Throughout the past decade, in an assessment conducted by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, it has been reported that the mean caffeine consumption for individuals between the ages of 2-22 has remained consistent. The main form by which this consumption takes place within the observed age group has been soda, although it appears that a shift is taking place in favor of coffee-based beverages across all age groups.
As energy drinks continue to make their way into the mainstream beverage market, both health care providers and policy makes are taking a growing interest in the amount of caffeine consumption among both children and adolescents. Symptoms such as hyperactivity, anxiety, and tachycardia have been attributed to the excessive intake of caffeine stimulants, with potentially long-term negative health risks in younger age groups. For this reason, the unregulated intake of products containing high levels of caffeine has been discouraged by health professionals. Despite this concern, there has only been limited research conducted into the area of pediatric caffeine consumption, and to date, there is no data that represents a national consensus on the issue.
Recent research suggest that the risk of becoming addicted to the caffeine may be more plausible that what is being widely considered, and warrants a more uniform appeal among the mixed verdicts. In an article co-authored by Stephen Meredith and Roland Griffiths of the John Hopkins School of Medicine, along with two other researches, caffeine was cited as “the most commonly used drug in the world,” with more than 90 percent of adults within the United States consuming at least 200mg of caffeine on a daily basis. It is recommended by the FDA that more than moderate amounts of caffeine (upwards of 600mg a day) not be consumed due to the detrimental effects that it can have on the human body. Overdosing on caffeine is very dangerous and can even be fatal, and there are various reports of overdoses, such as the case of a 19-year-old college student who died after consuming an excessive amount of caffeine pills in order to remain conscious.
On the other hand, new research also conducted by John Hopkins University suggests that caffeine consumed in moderate amounts can actually aid in the brain’s ability to retain information. The study reports that participants who were asked to study images, followed by receiving a 200mg caffeine tablet within a five-minute window, performed better during pattern separation tests that were administered the following day. However, Michael Yassa, the leader of the research team advises against bingeing on caffeine to achieve a similar effect, and that the study does not suggest its consumption has a uniform effect on memory performance. In the midst of competing information and mixed appeal, it is important to consider the pros and cons of caffeine, and proceed with responsible consumption of the stimulant.
By Darrell Purcell