Caffeinated Beverages and Your Child’s Brain

Keywords: caffeinated beverages, caffeine, beverages, coffee, cocoa, tea, cola drinks.


Caffeinated Beverages and Your Child’s Bran. What are the different types of caffeinated beverages? Should your child take caffeinated beverages? Which caffeinated beverage is good for your child?

Beverages comprise of all drinkable liquids. These include water, juices, coffee, tea, cocoa or chocolate drinks, soft or carbonated drinks including malt drinks and alcoholic drinks. Others include energy drinks, smoothies, herbal drinks, milk drinks, etc. And their main functions are to provide nutrients, energy and hydration.

During advertisement, some of these beverages producers, will try to outdo each other. This is in attempt to convince parents on the positive effects of their beverages on their children’s health. These beverages include the juices, chocolate drinks, teas, milk drinks and soft drinks. They will try to convince parents that these drinks can make their children physically and intellectually strong.

Among these are caffeinated drinks. So which of these caffeinated drinks are actually good for your child’s physical and mental health?

What are the different types of caffeinated beverages?

Caffeinated beverages are drinkable liquids that contain caffeine. And caffeine is a psychoactive drug that has strongly effect on the brain. By this, caffeine is able to affect the brain neurotransmitters in such a way as to affect brain function.

Caffeinated beverages include coffee, tea, chocolate drinks, cola soft drinks, energy drinks and some over the counter medications. They are called caffeinated drinks because they contain caffeine.

Children usually get most of their caffeinated beverages from cocoa drinks, soft drinks, including energy drinks.

One level teaspoon of instant coffee, contains about 30mg to 90mg of caffeine. So one table spoon has 90mg to 180mg of caffeine.

And one level teaspoon of decaffeinated coffee contains approximately 6mg of caffeine. This removes about 97% of caffeine from normal coffee.

For chocolate drinks, one table spoon of the cocoa powder, contains 12mg of caffeine.

One tea bag has 30mg – 50mg of caffeine. But the amount of caffeine that gets infused into the cup depends on two factors. These two factors are, how hot the water is and how long the tea bag is let in the cup.

A regular size of can cola soft drink will contain about 34mg to 38mg of caffeine.

As for energy drinks, a regular can size contains 170mg – 200mg of caffeine. But there are more concentrated shot that can have between 100mg to 200mg per shot.

Should your child take caffeinated beverages?

Pediatricians believe, there are actually no safe level for caffeine intake in children less than 12 years of age. But some researchers believe that there are safe level of caffeine intake for children.

These recommended low doses as seen below, for children come about because the children’s brain are still developing. So a little amount of caffeine can greatly affect it.

Are there safe levels of caffeine for children?:

Many researchers say that children between the ages of 1 – 9 years can take 14mg to 22mg daily. And some still believe that the quantity a child should take can be up to 2.5mg per kg of weight. For example, a 2 year old child that weighs 12kg, can have a maximum intake a day as 30mg. Then for children 12 years of age and above, they should not exceed 100mg of caffeine per day.

There is a Canadian guideline that approves these recommendations. They include that children ages 4 – 6 years can consume up to 45mg of caffeine per day. For children ages 7 – 9 years can have 62.5mg per day. Children 8 – 12 years can have 85mg per day. Then older children can have up to 100mg per day.

Effects of caffeine on the child’s physical and mental health:

Caffeine being a stimulant affects the child both mentally and physically through its effects at the central nervous system.

The good –

Such good or positive effects of taking caffeinated drinks, come only when the normal recommended doses are not exceeded.

At the brain level, caffeinated drinks increased attentiveness and alertness, work performance or energy, vigilance, increased mood. So at the normal dose, it can relieve depression and anxiety. Caffeine is also known to improve learning and memory. These effects come from the fact that caffeine act to increase the brain neurotransmitters. The neurotransmitters include dopamine, norepinephrine, epinephrine, serotonin, glutamate and endorphins.

Cocoa beverages contain flavonoids which help increase blood flow to the brain. This helps the brain to enhance learning and memory. And flavonoids help in increases brain cells.

Teas are also high in flavonoids. This includes the green and the black teas.

The bad –

Due to the small body structure and for their developing brain, caffeine intake in children can easily, negatively affect them.

Even at normal dose, caffeine reduces appetite in children.

Excessive intake of caffeine by children and adolescents can cause headaches and sleep disturbance. This sleep disturbance comes with shorter night sleep duration, multiple waking at night and increased daytime sleep. So such children can fall asleep in class.

Children who suffer from anxiety disorders should not take caffeine. This is because caffeine in excess will increase their symptoms. But for some children who are sensitive to caffeine, even a small amount can worsen their condition.

Children who have an existing mental illness should not take caffeine.

As the caffeine can increase anxiety in children, it can also increase their heart rate and blood pressure. It can also cause them heart burns.

The child can also become restless, have diarrhea, excessive urination and get dehydrated.

Remember that if you have low blood level or anemia, don’t take caffeine because it reduces iron absorption.

At high dose, the child can become easily angry, have conduct disorder, hyperactive and have decreased academic performance. Then at the high dose as contains in energy drinks, the organs, like the heart and kidneys can fail.

Energy drinks have been associated with behvioural problems in children adolescents.

In adolescents, high consumption of caffeine can predispose the child to abusing other substances. This is because caffeine affects the brain just like cocaine and other stimulants. And some adolescents will mix caffeine with alcohol, especially energy drinks with alcohol. This can be quite dangerous and fatal.

The ugly –


Just like adults, adolescents can become dependent on caffeinated drinks. And they too can have all the effects of dependence. So adolescents can have intoxication, tolerance and withdrawal symptoms.

Intoxication in the sense that at high dose or overdose. The symptoms include tremors, poor sleep, restlessness, excessive urination, rumbling speech, fast heartbeat, seizures, etc. Death can be a final complication of caffeine intoxication.

Tolerance means that the adolescent will have to take higher dose than usual, to get that boost in energy.

The withdrawal effects comes on when the caffeine level is low in the blood. And they symptoms include headache, weakness, drowsiness, being irritable, poor thinking and concentration, etc.

The effects on babies in the womb.

Pregnant and breast feeding women are advised not to take caffeinated beverages. But if they must take, it should be less than 200mg per day. This is because of the effects caffeine has on the development of the baby in the womb.

In the pregnant woman, caffeine can cause miscarriages, low birth weight and still birth (the birth of a dead baby).

Children who were exposed to caffeine while in the womb, tend to like sweet food as they grow up. That is, these children develop sweet taste. And they end up being obese children.

Which caffeinated beverage is good for your child?

It has been said that as much as possible, children should stay off caffeinated beverages. Parents should forget all the hyped advertisements from most beverage producers and be more concerned about their children’s health.

If parents believe in giving their children beverages that contain caffeine, then it is important that they read the labels. The caffeine in cocoa and cola drinks may seem less than that it teas, but there is more to them. Cocoa and cola drinks contain added sugars which is not good for children’s health. Also, cocoa contains another stimulant, theobromine, related to caffeine, so the two can act to increase their effects for children. Theobromine acts like caffeine, but is milder.

Definitely, coffee and energy drinks are not recommended for children because of their high caffeine content. Many researchers believe that children under the age of 12 years should not take any form of caffeine. But others believe that teas are good, especially herbal teas, which does not contain caffeine. For the other types of teas that contain caffeine, brewing them in hot water for a very short time is recommended for children. In fact, it is preferred that very warm water is used to brew the tea. And children of all ages can take the teas.

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