Coffee article Health
Is Coffee Bad For Kids?
I have a three-year old son and he sees me drinking coffee every morning. In fact, when he
sees me carrying a white mug, he would always point at it and say “coffee drink”. From time to
time, I let him sip some coffee so he would know how it tastes. I started letting him sip coffee
when he was one year old. But it’s not like I let him sip every day. I believe that coffee is not bad
for kids. However, excessive caffeine intake is harmful for kids. Often, coffee is blamed because
it has caffeine. But experts say that caffeine is also present in energy drinks, softdrinks, cough
syrup and even packed fresh juices.
If your kids do not drink coffee but they drink other substances that have caffeine, they might be
getting more caffeine than they need. As parents, we need to know which drinks have caffeine
and how we can limit our kids’ intake of these drinks, especially if they are out of the house
where we cannot monitor everything they eat and drink.
Let’s see what experts say about coffee, caffeine and kids’ health.
Experts share their thoughts on coffee and kids’ health
According to Dr.Toby Amidor, Author of “The Greek Yogurt Kitchen: More Than 130 Delicious,
Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Day”, coffee is a stimulant due to its caffeine content. In
the United States, there are no established standards for caffeine consumption among kids;
however, Dr. Amidor mentioned that Canada has set the limit to 45 mg per day or equivalent to
a can of soda. When kids are exposed to excessive caffeine, it can lead to insomnia, jitteriness,
upset stomach, headaches, difficulty concentrating, and increased heart rate. Amidor also
added that caffeine can affect the brain functions of young kids because they react to caffeine
quickly. Normally, kids would not like the bitter taste of coffee. So they would want to add
whipped cream, sugar, syrups and other artificial sweetener in their coffee. As a result, parents
would have to worry more about the calorie and excessive sugar component of the coffee drink
and not so much of the caffeine. The added sweeteners can lead to obesity and diabetes risk. If
kids would really want coffee, a sip or two is fine, Dr. Amidor said.
“I would say at best it's no harm, at worse, it can cause a lot of side effects that aren't
necessary. Certainly, young children don't need any caffeine at all. If an older child has a cup of
coffee or a soda every once and a while it's not a big deal. But when it comes to energy drinks,
there's no role for them in pediatrics. If you're using these for working out or to enhance athletic
promise, it's not a drug for that. What happens is some kids use them in replacement of good
hydration, which is worse. Caffeine can cause you to lose more water.” - Dr. Matthew Keefer,
General Pediatrician at Children's Hospital Los Angeles
Dr. Nicole Caldwell, assistant professor of pediatrics, Nationwide Children's Hospital, Columbus,
Ohio acknowledged that caffeine directly affects the central nervous system and it helps adults
to focus and concentrate. However, for kids, caffeine can have a different effect. In reality, kids
do not really need that additional focus and concentration on their daily activities. If kids drink
more than the 45 mg caffeine limit per day, the result is hyperactivity. This can also lead to
nervousness, stomach problems and difficulty in sleeping. Caffeine can last from three to six
hours in our body. Dr. Caldwell also noted that caffeine is not only present in coffee. It is an
active ingredient in soft drinks, energy drinks and even milk chocolate drink. Parents need to
worry about these drinks because kids love to these more than coffee.
Jessica Lieb, a registered dietician at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of the University of
Pittsburgh Medical Center, commented that caffeine should be introduced to children when they
reach adult stage, at the age of 18. Even adults need to keep drinking coffee in moderation and
since other drinks have caffeine too, it is important to watch out how much we drink on a daily
“There are lots of things we can’t do because we’re not old enough or mature enough. Caffeine
should probably be added to that list. - Dr. Kevin Shannon, a professor of pediatric cardiology
and director of pediatric arrhythmia at the Mattel Children’s Hospital of the University of
California, Los Angeles.
Caffeine content of common drinks, other than coffee
Caffeine is naturally produced in the leaves and seeds of many plants. It is very common in
coffee beans. It's also made artificially and added to certain foods. However, kids get most of
their caffeine from sodas, but it's also found in chocolate, coffee ice cream or frozen yogurt, as
well as pain relievers and other over-the-counter medicines. Even iced tea can contain as much
sugar and caffeine as soda. According to the U.S Food and Drug Administration, here is the list
of common food and drinks consumed by kids and the average caffeine content:
Here's how some sources of caffeine compare:
12 oz. Jolt soft drink 71.2 mg
12 oz. Mountain Dew 55 mg
12 oz. Coca-Cola
12 oz. Diet Coke
12 oz. Pepsi
8 oz. brewed coffee 95 mg
12 oz. iced tea
1 oz. dark chocolate 20 mg
1 oz. milk chocolate 6 mg
5 oz. cocoa beverage 4 mg
8 oz. chocolate milk beverage 5 mg
1 tablet cold relief medicine 30 mg
Caffeine is a known psychoactive drug that helps stimulates the brain and can trigger alertness,
focus and concentration. Since kids do not need these conditions, excessive caffeine
consumption can cause the following effects:
jitters and nervousness
faster heart rate
So, is coffee really bad for kids?
After considering all the information from experts and noting the presence of caffeine in foods
and drinks other than coffee, a sip of coffee will not harm your kids. You should be worried when
your kids drink a can of soda, eat a whole bag of chocolates or take that energy drink from your
refrigerator. Aside from taking in caffeine, your kids are consuming too much sugar that can
lead to oral health problems, obesity and childhood diabetes.
We just often blame coffee because we know and it’s a given that it has caffeine. But to be
honest, kids will not really indulge in drinking hot coffee. They might take a sip or two out of
curiosity. But they will not finish a cup. So, you don’t have to really worry about overdosing on
caffeine when your kid asks to take a sip from your coffee mug.
There are unhealthier foods and drinks that we allow our kids to eat like soft drink and
processed fruit juices. Let’s be careful with that.