About half of children between the ages of 6 and 11 drink soda, and about one-fifth of toddlers consume it as well, which led Dr. Michael F. Jacobson of the Center for Science in the Public Interest to give this drink a new name: liquid candy. Soda is not the only way children get caffeine, but it is typically the most common way. If your child drinks caffeine, you might want to know what effect caffeine has on kids.
Caffeine is a mildly addictive stimulant drug. Jacobson reasons that caffeine must be somewhat addictive; otherwise, soft drink companies would not add it to most of their colas. Soft drink companies claim to add caffeine to enhance flavor. But most people cannot detect any flavor difference from caffeine, which suggests another reason for the addition. Jacobson believes the addition occurs because of the stimulant effects of caffeine, not the flavor. Children aged 6 to 12 who stop consuming caffeine suffer withdrawal symptoms of headaches and fatigue, and their attention span is impaired, according to Jacobson.
It Keeps Kids from Getting Nutrition
When children are thirsty, they can drink milk or fruit juice and get calcium, vitamin A or magnesium, or they can drink a caffeinated soda, which does not meet any nutritional needs. Soda plays a role in keeping children from getting proper nutrition. According to a United States Department of Agriculture study from 1994 to 1996, children who consume more than 18 percent of their calories from soda consume 24 percent less fiber, 15 percent fewer vitamins and minerals and 6 percent less calcium than children who consume fewer than 10 percent of calories from soda. Consuming soda or energy drinks that contain sugar also leads to an increased risk of tooth decay and obesity.
It Causes Side Effects
When children or adults consume too much caffeine, they can become nervous, jittery, have difficulty sleeping, get headaches, get an upset stomach and can have an increased heart rate and blood pressure. The smaller and younger the child, the less caffeine he has to consume to feel these effects. Health Canada recommends that children age 4 to 6 consume no more than 45 mg of daily caffeine; children 7 to 9 should consume no more than 62.5 mg of caffeine; and children 10 to 12 should consume no more than 85 mg of daily caffeine. This equates to one to two cans of cola a day.
Common Ways Children Get Caffeine
Besides soda, children can get caffeine from energy drinks, iced tea, chocolate, cocoa, chocolate milk and cold medicine. Soda, energy drinks and iced tea contain the most caffeine, so the best way to eliminate or cut your child’s caffeine intake is to eliminate those drinks. Replace them with water, milk, 100 percent fruit juice or flavored seltzer. If your child has been consuming caffeine regularly, cut back gradually to avoid withdrawal symptoms.