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Do you know how much caffeine your children are consuming, do you think its something you should be checking or do you not know what all the fuss is about?
It’s recently hit the headlines that teenagers are consuming large amounts of energy drinks to get them through their exams. The NASUWT, the teachers union is calling for the Government to commission independent research into energy drink use and the long-term effects on health.
In adults excess caffeine can lead to a caffeine habit and dependency, but experts are not sure what it will do to children in the long term. But they worry that it may affect their behaviour.
During a normal day your child may consume more caffeine than you think
a can of 500ml energy drink 160g
a can of cola has around 40mg of caffeine
a cup of tea – upto 80mg
a cup of instant coffee has around 100mg,
a mug of filter coffee has around 140mg
small bar of milk chocolate – 25mg
painkillers and cold and flu medications generally contain between 50 and 120mg
The guidelines for adult daily consumption of caffeine is clear
- Pregnant women – 200mg
- Everyone else – 400mg
But it is less clear for children. When researching this article I found guidelines that said 100mg is a safe limit and another that 3mg per kilo of body weight is. Therefore a 50kg child should consume a maximum of 150mg. Based on either of those guidelines if your child has one energy drink they could be exceeding that safe limit
This week I was contacted by Gem106, radio to talk about this issue. Here are two very brief news clips (20 seconds each)
“So what”, you might be thinking. Well, an excess of caffeine in children could lead to
- energy ‘crash’
- increased blood pressure
- increased bone loss – especially worrying for teenage girls
- poor sleep
Many of the energy drinks come in 500ml cans, so a child is consuming large amounts of caffeine in one go. They are often high in sugar also. Monster contains nearly 14 teaspoons of sugar. This high level may condition a child to crave sweet things, and could lead to an increase in weight
At a time when many children need to be at the top of their game, caffeine can sabotage all their hard work. In small amounts caffeine can enhance mood and brain function, but so can natural foods
Whats the alternative?
first of all stay hydrated – water and milk are healthy options, weak green tea can also boost concentration
snack on nuts, dried fruits and seeds – they contain a mix of serotonin (mood enhancer), antioxidants (boosting the immune system), dopamine (a brain chemical involved in increasing motivation and concentration), zinc (to boost brain function) and omega 3 fatty acids (help the brains ability to think and process). Muesli is a great option as it also contains oats, which are great for heart health and delivering energy slowly (so no ‘crashes’)
yoghurt and fresh fruit – the vitamin C helps to improve mental agility, high in fibre (helps to sustain a regular level of energy) ripe bananas also contain dopamine
peanut butter and rice cakes – contain B vitamins (good for memory and concentration) and fibre
veggie sticks with hummus – packed with antioxidants, protein and fibre
Eggs and avocado on wholemeal toast – full of good fats, antioxidants, protein,vitamins, especially vitamin E
The Foods Standards Agency confirms that drinks that contain caffeine from whatever source at a level over 150mg per litre (mg/l) must state: ‘High caffeine content. Not recommended for children or pregnant or breast-feeding women’. Supermarkets including Asda and Tesco state they do not sell energy drinks to youngsters and ask for proof of age.
So do you think its about time national guidelines on recommended consumption levels of caffeine for children are introduced?