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  • Writer's pictureTeresa Conrad

Coffee Addict??

How does caffeine affect you? How does it affect your children?

I'm a coffee lover and addict. There I said it. Caffeine is the most widely utilized psychoactive substance among people of all age groups and cultural backgrounds. There is literally a coffee shop at every corner. Why? It's legal, affordable, easy to obtain, and how could you say no to a hot cup of coffee on a cold winters day?!? Or iced on a hot summers day?!? As you can see, the options are endless.

It is classified as a stimulant drug, and is typically used to wake up the central nervous system for cognitive or physical endeavors. Coffee is my pre workout. Caffeine is recognized as safe by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but in excess can results in serious side effects or health hazards. A moderate dosage is 200mg-300mg. High dosages (>400mg) have been shown to produce negative effects such as anxiety, nausea, jitteriness, and nervousness. But as with everything in life, moderation is key.

You can find caffeine in a variety of beans, leaves, and fruits; but it is most commonly consumed in the forms of coffee (70%), soda (16%), and tea (12%). Approximately 9 out of 10 adults report regular use of caffeine, with an average daily intake of around 230mg.

Besides the amazing comfort of having a hot cup of coffee, there are other benefits. First off, "it activates adenosine receptors to promote stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS). Since the SNS initiates what is referred to as the “fight or flight response”caffeine causes an adrenaline-like energy response. This mechanism of SNS provocation has been shown to improve concentration, memory retention, auditory vigilance, and reaction time" (NCSF). Basically, if you drink coffee your super powers are enhanced.

Secondly, "caffeine is known to directly enhance dopamine neurotransmission, which provides for an endorphin-like pleasure response and resistance to pain". This is why I use coffee as my pre workout. It gives me to boost I need to lift more weight and sprint longer. And you won't feel as much pain when working out?? Sold. LOL.

Caffeine and Children

The red flag comes when children start increasing their caffeine intake. Statistics show that caffeine intake among children and adolescents have increased by 70% in the last 30 years. In the Eighties, the average intake among children between the ages of 5 and 18 was reported to be 38mg per day (the equivalent of one soda). The December 2010 issue of the Journal of Pediatrics reveals children ages 8-12 consuming an average of 109mg per day.

This is concerning because:

1. There is no safe "minimal" limit set for children and the same positive subjective effects seen in adults (enhanced feelings of well- being, confidence, and sociability) are not the same for children. More research needs to be done to discover the overall physiological and psychological implications of caffeine use among children.

2. Children need sleep for proper brain development and growth, and caffeine affects sleeping patterns.

3. When used during the formative years, caffeine may have the potential to cause long-lasting effects on brain function. "Specifically, areas such as the orbitofrontal cortex and temporal lobe, which appear to develop beyond the teenage years, have the potential to be modified by caffeine due to their intrinsic adenosine receptors" (NCSF). More research needs to be done, but to be safe kids don't need to intake caffeine, I mean their kids anyways, they should have enough energy without it.

4. During childhood and adolescence we develop eating patterns and taste preferences. If taken often, common caffeinated beverages (soda, coffee, etc.) may enhance the cravings for sweet foods. Which leads to excess calorie intake and a bigger belly because of poor nutrition. Studies show that caffeine in the form of sugar-sweetened carbonated beverages has been strongly associated with a greater chance of obesity in children. One particular study reported that for each additional serving of a soda-like beverage consumed daily during childhood, there is a 60% increase in the odds of becoming obese (NCSF). Overall, less soda, more fruits and veggies...for everyone.

5. Studies have shown that caffeine use increases the response to any subsequent drug exposure, and children seem to have an additional vulnerability to this effect. This can potentially turn a "child‟s dosage" of a given medication into a dangerous or toxic dosage.

6. Research suggests that caffeine consumption during adolescence (approximately 220mg per day) is associated with increased impulsivity, sensation seeking, and risk-taking behaviors – such as is seen with illicit drug and tobacco use. One particular study revealed that consuming four or more caffeinated beverages a day during adolescence was associated with daily cigarette use, aggressive behavior, and attention and conduct problems.

There is no question that caffeine use is on the rise among children and adolescents. I mean who wouldn't want an energy drink that give you wings??? More studies need to be done, but appears that there are many negative effects of high usage during youth (sleep, growth, development), and some of them may have lasting repercussions.


Moderation is key. If you find yourself having 3 cups of coffee or 3 energy drinks a day, it might be time to re-evaluate. Are really tired or did you just slip into a habit? And if your kids are drinking coffee, they don't know what tired is until they start work at 5AM. They can wait.

Source: Caffeine Consumption Among Children and Adolescents, NCSF Article

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