Coffee and energy drinks are now the main caffeine sources consumed by American children and based on the latest survey this consumption pattern has increased in the past decade. Researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention discovered that between 1999 and 2010, 63% of children with ages two to five years old have consumed at least some caffeine on a given day. And the caffeine did not come from the traditional soda drinks but from coffee and energy drinks. And 73% of people with ages two to 22 years old have consumed some caffeine on a given day given the same study period.
Based on the data of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, caffeine intake from soda dropped from 62% for the period 1999-2000 to 38% for the period 2009-2010. This decline was however compensated by an increase in coffee consumption from 10% of caffeine intake in 1999-2000 to more than doubling it with 24% in the period 2009-2010. Energy drinks on the other hand, jumped from not being consumed in 1999-2000 to 6% of caffeine intake for the period 2009-2010. The results of this study were released Monday in the March issue of The American Academy of Pediatrics.
However, the American Academy of Pediatrics discourages young people from consuming caffeine and in their 2011 statement they warned that, “stimulant-containing energy drinks” must not be part of any children and adolescents diets.
According to the health statistician of the National Center for Health Statistics and the co-author of this study Amy Branum, the main reason for this increase in caffeine consumption among kids and teens especially with regard to the energy drinks is that these has become easily available and within easy reach. Branum added the energy drinks’ increased contribution in caffeine consumption among this demographic represented “quite a difference in a relatively short amount of time.”
Caffeine intake by children can be a concern especially when taken regularly and in excess of the normal amount. According to pediatrician at Miami Children’s Hospital Dr. Marielys Rodriguez Varela, caffeine’s possible side effects on children include high blood pressure, rapid heart beating as well as anxiety. Varela also added that the sugar included in these caffeinated drinks can contribute to obesity. She also said that it is not just about the caffeine she is worried about but with the side effects of this substance on children. Although as of now, scientists do not yet understand the exact effects of excessive caffeine intake in children.
Experts agree that instead of consuming caffeinated drinks, children must drink water and some amount of fruit juices. With regard to their need for extra energy, children can instead turn to exercise as a natural healthy habit rather than depend on supplements that are unhealthy.
Although caffeine intake by children increased, analysis by federal researchers indicate that overall intake did not change. This finding is consistent with a 2012 U.S. FDA analysis and published in the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI) which says that in a survey of more than 37,000 people caffeine consumption has remained stable for the period.
The latest survey indicates that coffee and energy drinks are now the main sources of caffeine consumed by American children. What worries pediatricians and medical experts are the possible side effects of these caffeinated drinks may have on children when consumed regularly.
By Roberto I. Belda