Kids and teens can also get caffeine from many foods and drinks, including chocolate, chocolate milk and iced tea. What’s more, some over-the-counter medications that kids might take, such as Excedrin, are significant sources of caffeine. But coffee is the main source of caffeine among Americans 12 years and older.
Based on my years of research, I’m confident that one daily cup of coffee won’t harm kids over age 12 — as long as they avoid all other sources of caffeine.
That one cup of coffee combined with, say, a can of iced tea or soda, or a chocolate bar, could put kids over the daily limit of 100 milligrams of caffeine that doctors recommend. (One cup of brewed coffee contains almost 100 mg; a 12-ounce cola is nearly 50 mg.) Adults should aim for no more than 400 mg of caffeine, which they could get from four cups of coffee.
And since caffeine is in so many foods and drinks, it’s easy for kids — or grown-ups — to get more than they should without realizing it.
The threat to sleep might not sound like the most serious of all of these side effects to you. But it could be. The National Sleep Foundation, a nonprofit group that funds and conducts research on sleep, recommends that teens get about nine hours of sleep per night. But studies show that on average kids get much less sleep than that.
Some adults may tell kids that drinking caffeine will stunt their growth.
There are two reasons some people think that.
First, caffeine can decrease the amount of calcium in your bones, which people used to think would make you not grow as tall.
Second, caffeine consumed later in the day can reduce sleep. The growth hormone, which makes you grow, is released early in sleep, so the idea was that less sleep would lead to less growth.
Based on the best science that is available, I’ve been allowing my three children to have one cup of coffee first thing in the morning once they turn 12. It is important to think about what else they’re getting with their coffee, however.
Any negative effects of the caffeine they get from that morning jolt wear off long before bedtime. But I don’t let them have any caffeine-containing products after 3 p.m. to protect their sleep.
Jennifer L. Temple is an associate professor of nutrition and director of the Nutrition and Health Research Laboratory at the University of Buffalo, the State University of New York. This article was originally published on theconversation.com