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Wellness Components Nutrition:
Caffeine and Kids
May 22, 2000
by 2012 CompWellness Legacy Site

Wellness  Nutrition

This article may shock you even anger you. Please understand that no malice is intended, only caution, truth and wellness. Though this article addresses the epidemic of caffeine abuse by children, the problem and denial among adults is equally dangerous. We have quoted many sources and provided the links and emails for them. For balance, we have also listed links to a few legally-inadvisable comments minimizing the problems of caffeine use and addiction by children and adults.

Following are the sources for the subsequent quotes and comments.

Information Sources

"Caffeine," by the Cumberland Mountain Community Service Board (CMCSB), describes caffeine as "a central nervous system stimulant. It is legal and found in many beverages, including coffee, tea, and colas. It is the most widely abused drug in the world. It is used therapeutically to relieve headaches, relieve fatigue, and as a diuretic. ... However, "caffeine shortens sleep time, reduces depth of sleep, increases early dream-state sleep and reduces later dream-state sleep. Caffeine is sometimes substituted for amphetamine street drugs."

Caffeine and Teens (c)2000  CLICK for WEBPAGE

In a 1998 Associated Press story from Hannibal MO, "Parents Should Encourage Their Children to Develop Good Nutritional Habits" (APHM email), "Be prudent about soft drinks, many of which contain caffeine, say Baylor experts. Caffeine can dull the appetite, so children who regularly drink it may be excluding more nutritional foods from their diets."

According to a members-only section page, "Children and the Caffeine Culture," by The Chiropractic Resource Organization (TCRO), "A recent article by Helen Cordes that appeared in The Nation and the Pacific Sun. It describes a younger generation guzzling large quantities of caffeine with little or no attention paid to studies indicating the negative consequences of children's caffeine intake. Ironically, this is occurring at the same time baby boomers have decided caffeine is something they should avoid." The 4-page TCRO article contains important statistics, research data and recommendations on caffeine and youth's caffeine abuse.

From an article in Prevention's Healthy Ideas, "Is Hyperactivity or ADD/ADHD Related to Certain Foods?" by Karen Kaplan, MD, "According to current research, caffeine is the only food substance that acts as a stimulant in both children and adults. Those who don't seek stimulation should avoid foods and beverages that contain caffeine. No other foods have been proven to cause or reduce 'hyperactivity.' You should remember, however, that chocolate and colas, popular with children and adolescents, are both major sources of caffeine."

According to "Caffeine and Kids: An Unhealthy Mixture," by Health in partnership with WSOC Health Team 9 (H-WSOC), "Their names almost sound like street drugs Krank2O, Surge, Jolt. Caffeine makes these high-energy drinks popular. Found in tea, coffee and colas, caffeine's a stimulant that affects the central nervous system. It is also one of the most widely used drugs in the world."

"Caffeine, Fat, Sugar and Your Child" (email for KHC), says "sometimes it's difficult to determine the truth about food. TV and magazines tantalize consumers with images of tasty, sugary foods. Your child's doctor may tell you that your child's diet is too high in fat. But what's the truth?" [See the next section.]

A wonderful assortment of background information has been accumulated in "Caffeine FAQ," by Daniel Owen.

A list of background points is at "ABC's Caffeine" by the Alberta Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission.

For a list of botanical caffeine sources, see "Plants Containing Caffeine," by the Nova Scotia Department of Education.

The very well-documented book on caffeine, addiction and solutions, "Caffeine Blues," by Stephen A. Cherniske, MS, shows unequivocally that "health experts are most worried about the effects of soft drink consumption on children. After ingesting soft drinks, they may have high blood levels of caffeine for many hours. The cumulative effects derived from consuming soft drinks throughout the day are completely unknown, but it may be no coincidence that cases of hyperactivity and attention deficit disorder (ADD) have grown to epidemic proportions at the same time soft drinks have become the dominant fluid intake for many children."

Cherniske generally documents and supports the material in this article. See our review of this excellent work in the May 31st 21st Century Wellness eLetter.

The following are specific details quoted from the above Sources identified by the footnote at the end of each quote.
To make a reasonable collection and flow of quotes and comments, we footnoted each paragraph with the abbreviation for the above sources, so you can follow up in the specific sources' website.

Courtesy of Nova Scotia Department of Education  CLICK for WEBPAGE


Caffeine is the most widely abused drug in the world - for children and adults.CMCSB

Caffeine is a stimulant, which might cause nervousness, irritability, anxiety, insomnia, and disturbance of heart rate and rhythm. It's also a diuretic, which increases urination, meaning that both children and adults need to increase water intake.APHM

Caffeine is an especially poor choice in hot weather, when children need to replace water lost through perspiration.KHC

See the CMCSB article for additional harmful effects.

Like grown-ups, kids show ill effects of too much caffeine, in body and behavior.TCRO

For a child, drinking three sodas with caffeine in them is like drinking three cups of coffee for an adult, which is a pretty substantial intake of caffeine.H-WSOC

A child is not equipped to handle the same amount [of caffeine] as an adult.H-WSOC

Statistics & Quantities

Surveys show that 77% of children aged 6 months and older consume regular amounts of caffeine.H-WSOC

The most conservative estimates in a 1994 survey by the Department of Agriculture have children and teens guzzling more than 64 gallons of soda a year, an amount that has tripled for teens since 1978, doubled for the 6-11 set and increased by a quarter for tots younger than 5.TCRO

The average 6 ounce cup of coffee contains about 103 mg of caffeine. A 12 ounce cola contains about 37 mg, a 12 ounce Mountain Dew has 55 mg, and a 12 ounce Krank2O contains about 71 mg of caffeine.H-WSOC

Experts say about 50 to 100 milligrams of caffeine a day is okay for children over 40 pounds. [However], Dietitian Jill McCann says these new soft drinks have little substance. They don't have any vitamins or minerals and the regular sodas are all sugar.H-WSOC

12 ounces of a regular Starbucks coffee contains about 190 milligrams of caffeine, more than three times the amount in a similar-sized can of Coke or Pepsi (35-60 milligrams of caffeine).TCRO

Health Issues

Caffeine and carbonated beverages can trigger "refluxing," in which a faulty sphincter muscle mechanism allows the acid contents of the upper stomach to back up and irritate portions of the respiratory tract - including the throat and ears.TCRO

Caffeine totally lacking in nutritional value does not add taste, texture or color to a soft drink.KHC

Children who drink lots of caffeinated beverages may miss getting the calcium they need from milk to build strong bones and teeth.KHC

Caffeine can also be harmful to the growing bodies of children. Large doses of caffeine cause excessive excretion of calcium and magnesium, vital elements for the formation of a normal bone mass.TCRO

The drinking of caffeinated, carbonated drinks may exacerbate common childhood ailments such as ear infections and respiratory irritations that produce colds, bronchitis and asthma.TCRO

In the page, "Ask the Dietitian - Caffeine," Joanne Larsen , MS, RD, LD, answers several questions about caffeine.

Peer Pressure

In fast-food joints, convenience stores and restaurants - where many children get up to 40 percent of their meals - it is common to see young children and teens downing "big gulp" sized caffeinated sodas or lining up for seconds and thirds and refillable soda stations. These megadrinks can pack a wallop equal to three cups of strong coffee. Remember that this amount of caffeine is bombarding a body that may be only two-thirds the size of an adult [or smaller].TCRO

In school cafeterias, children are bypassing milk for cans of soda that contain huge amounts of caffeine.TCRO

Dozens of school districts have succumbed to the almighty dollar in agreeing to exclusive contracts with specific cola manufacturers as well as the right to put ads on gym walls and school buses. Soda companies also plaster their ads and logos on everything from free textbook covers to computer screen savers and mouse pads.TCRO

Four of the five most popular soft drinks sold in the United States are caffeinated - No. 4 Sprite, is the only exception. With the proliferation of coffee shops, children and teens now have another outlet for caffeine consumption. At their favorite hangout, many juvenile customers scorn decaf in favor of sugary coffee drinks.TCRO

Indeed, the best-selling product at grocery stores is soda, which accounts for almost $12 Billion in sales each year.TCRO


Caffeine is addictive. If you're like many people and you don't get your daily fix, your body goes into withdrawal. Dr Wark says, "It also seems to produce headaches. Especially with children who come to my clinic with headaches, I'm always asking about caffeinated drinks."H-WSOC

Some other symptoms of caffeine dependency include tremors, irritability or sleeplessness. Doctors say if your child is hooked on caffeinated beverages you can reduce withdrawal symptoms if you slowly reduce the amount of caffeine they drink.H-WSOC

Like adults, children who are regular caffeine drinkers suffer ill effects when they do not get a regular "shot." In one study, fifth and sixth graders who were deprived of daily caffeine reported having symptoms including trouble thinking clearly, not feeling energetic and getting angry. Even those consuming less than the equivalent of one soda each day felt symptoms. In effect, these children had become dependent on caffeine.TCRO

On "Caffeine withdrawal in children," the University of Minnesota cautions, "Caffeine withdrawal affects children the same way it does adults. When kids in a recent study went cold turkey their response time on a performance test fell."


Unborn children may be affected by caffeine passing through placental barrier.CMCSB

In a Q&A column, "Is Caffeine During Pregnancy Harmful? Pregnancy Channel" author Tori Kropp, RN, said, "Here's the scoop on caffeine. Yes, it's a stimulant, and it does cross the placenta. So when you have some, so does your baby. The concern is that caffeine constricts blood vessels and can theoretically decrease maternal blood flow to the baby. There have been lots of studies about caffeine and pregnancy, and it is generally considered best to eliminate it altogether or decrease the amount of caffeine you consume when you're pregnant. Though an occasional soda should not cause problems, try lemonade or other refreshing caffeine substitutes."


Several studies have shown that children respond to caffeine the same as do adults: a low dose may aid concentration and task completion, but higher doses typically make children nervous, anxious, fidgety, frustrated and quicker to anger.TCRO

A psychiatric researcher at the National Institutes of Mental Health reported that 8 to 13 year-olds who regularly consumed high doses of caffeine were judged more restless by teachers. Indeed, about one-third were hyperactive enough to meet the criteria for Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity.TCRO

Researchers also worry about potential problems related to excessive caffeine consumption that will not be seen until the children mature. For example, there may be increasing rates of osteoporosis, and since caffeine raises the blood pressure hypertension.TCRO


Major caffeine suppliers to children have been investing millions of dollars into advertising and giveaway schemes.TCRO

According to neurologist Dr James Wark, "[The Marketing] makes me a little nervous. If it's aimed at children, it's aimed at a market of people who don't really have a good sense of what it means to use drugs.H-WSOC

Marketers have created names that pulse with power, such as "Surge," "Zapped," "Full Speed" and "Outburst." "Josta," laced with both caffeine and the pick-me-up herb guarana, hypes its "raw, primal power." In effect, caffeine has become the perfect antidote for youths facing the pressures of the '90s. It provides a boost of sociability, enhanced performance and energy. [Since] this inevitably results in a subsequent droop, this only reinforces the need to have more.TCRO

Solutions(c)2000 - CLICK for WEBPAGE

Try to determine exactly how much caffeine your child consumes each day - you probably will be shocked. Experts recommend that children and teens should stay well under 100 milligrams of caffeine per day, which equals between one and two cans of soda, depending on the caffeine content.TCRO

Encourage your children to drink water and 100 percent pure fruit juice. TCRO

Milk, juices, water or caffeine-free drinks are a better for your children.APHM

Teach your children that caffeine is a drug that can be dangerous in large amounts.TCRO

Support campaigns to force manufacturers to label their products so that you know exactly how much caffeine they contain.TCRO

Support efforts to restrict soda sales and eliminate all cola advertising in schools.TCRO

A family site posted the article by New York Family, "Starting Good Sleep Habits Early" (email) which, for establishing good sleeping habits, recommends, "don't give children drinks with caffeine or sugar, including sodas, in the late afternoon or evening."

A short recommendation, "What Works: Homeopathy, Nutrition and Herbs for ADHD Children," by Dr. Richard Cantrell, is one of several recommendations for various conditions.

As suggested in "Traveling with Children," by Russell G. Robertson, MD, "Have snack foods and drinks available that are low in sugar and caffeine. Cheerios, crackers, apples, raisins, and low calorie beverages taste good and are filling without the buzz that accompanies sugar and caffeine."

Distant Voices Coffee and Pop Industry Spokesmen?

It is amazing that some medical practitioners and hospitals are downplaying in print the effects of caffeine on adults and children shades of the tobacco industry cover-up? (They must not be talking to their lawyers about the legal quagmire they have entered.) Though they are likely to biased by some connection with the coffee or pop industries, here are the majority of the references we found:

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