Energy Drinks and Caffeine for Kids
As some schools ban colas from vending machines, advertisements are hyping a source of even more caffeine: energy drinks.
The ploy: These drinks can aid both mental and physical performance.
In reasonable amounts, caffeine isn't harmful for children, but some experts suggest that kids not go overboard on caffeinated drinks.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not restrict caffeine in energy drinks, but it limits caffeine in cola to about 5.4 mg per ounce. Most cola contains far less. However, popular energy drinks like Redbull, Monster, Full Throttle, and Rock Star, often contain far more. A 2006 study in the Journal of Analytical Toxicology found that an 8-ounce serving of many energy drinks has more than twice the caffeine of a 12-ounce can of caffeinated cola. Twelve ounces of energy drink, Jolt, contains 71 mg of caffeine. (A can of Diet Coke has 45 mg of caffeine.)
While the FDA and other federal agencies have not established guidelines on appropriate amounts of caffeine for children, there are other reasons to limit the amount of kids’ caffeine consumption. For example, it can inhibit bone development in children because it interferes with calcium absorption, as well as other negative physical effects as described below.
Caffeine is a stimulant found naturally in plants, but manufacturers also add it to certain foods and medications. It is not only found in colas and energy drinks, but also in tea, coffee, chocolate, over-the-counter pain relievers and cold remedies. For children and teens, tea and soft drinks provide the majority of caffeine in their diets, with the average child consuming about 21 mg of caffeine a day. In low doses, caffeine can increase alertness. At higher levels, both adults and children can experience these negative effects:
• Nervousness, agitation, or feeling jittery
• Increased stomach acid or a feeling of upset stomach
• Headaches
• Difficulty sleeping
• Increase heart rate and blood pressure
• Trouble concentrating
Another concern about these beverages is the amount of sugar they contain and therefore the effect on weight: A child who has one sweetened soda a day boosts his or her risk for obesity by 60 percent. A typical 12-ounce can contains 150 calories but no nutrients.
Also, children and teens that drink sweetened beverages are less likely to consume enough milk and get its bone-strengthening calcium as well as water, which leaves them more dehydrated.
A steady diet of sweetened drinks also increases the risk for tooth decay and cavities which means more trips to the dentist.
Alternatives to energy and sweetened drinks:
• One hundred percent, no sugar added juice
• Spritzers (half juice, half seltzer water)
• Brewed green tea with a splash of lemon or fruit juice for different flavors
• Water
• Milk with a small amount of fat-free chocolate syrup for a cold or warm drink
• Diet soda in small amounts. (Clear sodas do not contain caffeine nor does root beer or orange soda although be sure to check the label.)
• Fruit smoothies with yogurt and ice
• Single serving flavor packets added to water
Find healthy alternatives to caffeine: Try a healthy smoothie recipe

Learn more about caffeine, click here

Take the caffeine quiz