Is Coffee Good for Kids?

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"Let's got to Starbucks!," Your mini me might say ... only, don't make it a habit. Caffeine brings with it a slew of side effects.

In our thirsty-to-be-cool culture, kids everywhere are sucking down sodas and energy drinks laced high with caffeine, not to mention slurping down fancy (and pricey) coffees from Starbucks and the like. But is caffeine OK for kids? You’d think so given the prevalence of caffeine drinks. But here’s the truth:

A study that came out in December 2010 in the journal Pediatrics found that in the 75 percent of children that were tested, the more caffeine they consumed the less they slept. Caffeine impacts sleep. The study also showed evidence to suggest that if you have a child who already has an anxiety disorder, the effects of caffeine make it worse. Several doctors commented on the study of caffeine’s impact on kids, all of them agreeing that it can cause a lot of unnecessary side effects.

Marcie Schneider, M.D., a former member of the American Academy of Pediatrics committee on nutrition adds this to the conversation:

“It is bad. Caffeine is absorbed in every body tissue. It increases your heart rate and it increases your blood pressure. Caffeine changes your body temperature and your gastric juices. It changes how attentive you are, and can really cause trouble in terms of sleep. Then there’s moods. For kids who have some anxiety (and it may even be under control in normal conditions), caffeine can really increase anxiety. Caffeine is a stimulant, and therefore it may change a kid’s appetite. Adolescents gain half of their adult weight in their teenage years. If caffeine curbs their appetite in some way it could affect their growth. A lot of the issue for kids is all the energy drinks such as Red Bull and Monster. These drinks are full of other components. There’s guarana, which is a plant extract and each gram of guarana is equal to 40 milligrams of caffeine as a stimulant. There’s another protein called taurine, which potentiates the effect of caffeine.”

The final word: Think twice before being so permissive with high caffeine drinks, experts say. Moderation is always the key.




Susan Swindell Day is the editor in chief of Nashville Parent and the mom of four amazing kids.

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