Kids’ consumption of caffeine: no reason for panic

In the last episode of Healthcare Triage, I mentioned that my wife and I try to keep caffeine away from our kids. Why? Cause caffeine works. It affects your heart rate, your blood pressure, your mood, etc. In the last few years, the popularity of some energy drinks has raised concerns that kids are getting way more caffeine than they used to. Are they? There’s a new manuscript in Pediatrics that’s on point:

BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVE: Physicians and policy makers are increasingly interested in caffeine intake among children and adolescents in the advent of increasing energy drink sales. However, there have been no recent descriptions of caffeine or energy drink intake in the United States. We aimed to describe trends in caffeine intake over the past decade among US children and adolescents.

METHODS: We assessed trends and demographic differences in mean caffeine intake among children and adolescents by using the 24-hour dietary recall data from the 1999–2010 NHANES. In addition, we described the proportion of caffeine consumption attributable to different beverages, including soda, energy drinks, and tea.

We’ve discussed NHANES before. These data cover 1999 through 2010. They found that about three quarters of kids and adolescents consume caffeine each day. The good news, though, is that there was no significant increase in the amount consumed over time. In fact, there was a decrease in caffeine consumption in 2 to 11 year olds.

And get this! While soda was the main way kids get caffeine, its contribution went down from 62% to 38%. Coffee, on the other hand, went from 10% in 1999 to 24% in 2010. Energy drinks – which everyone is panicked about – went from nothing in 1999 to 6% in 2010. Overall, daily caffeine consumed went down, from 77 mg  to 58 mg.

So, yes, kids are drinking more coffee, and some proportion are drinking more energy drinks. But soda seems to be down. Overall caffeine consumption is down. The sky isn’t falling.


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