Should High Caffeine Drinks Be Banned for Children?

10th June 2016 | Written by Louise Blanchfield

Manufacturers of high caffeine drinks do state that their drinks are ‘not recommended for children or pregnant women’ but do they go far enough in actually increasing awareness of their potential side effects and thus even attempt to prevent their sale to such vulnerable individuals? It can even be argued that the style advertising and branding of these products appears to be deliberately aimed at the teenage market. Indeed, it is reported that energy drinks are consumed by 30% to 50% of adolescents and young adults.

Caffeine can be both man-made and found naturally in coffee beans, cacao pods and tea. It is added to many foods, drinks and even medications in varying quantities. Each individual can tolerate different levels of caffeine and this depends on your age, weight, any existing health conditions and whether you have built up a tolerance to it. It is postulated that the safe level for adults is up to 400mg per day but for children recommended levels are as low as 100mg. If we look at drinks consumed by children, it is not surprising that problems exist when drinks range from a can of coca-cola at 32mg to a can of ‘Rockstar Punched’ that comes in at a huge caffeine content of 240mg per 500ml.

When caffeine is ingested it very rapidly enters the central nervous system and has a stimulatory effect making your feel more alert and energetic. However, in October 2015 the Mayo Clinic stated that ongoing consumption of more than 500-600 mg of caffeine a day in adults may lead to insomnia, nervousness, restlessness, irritability, an upset stomach, a fast heartbeat and even muscle tremors. Indeed, previous research has linked even moderate amounts of caffeine to negative health effects. For children, these effects can be experienced at much lower levels.

It is of particular concern when high caffeine drinks are consumed by children who suffer with seizures, diabetes, cardiac abnormalities, or mood and behavioural disorders, as the effects can be more pronounced. It has even been reported in America that, of the 5448 caffeine overdoses in 2007, 46% occurred in those younger than 19 years old. An overdose can lead to convulsions and death. Does that not say it all? Caffeine overdose. If a substance can be considered to have a toxic level such that overdose can occur why is it freely available for all to buy, especially children?

And it’s not just the caffeine that gives concern from a nutritional perspective. When looking at the list of ingredients it can be seen that sugar is a major ingredient followed by a host of other chemicals that at best are of no nutritional value and at worst can cause seizures, paralysis, cerebral swelling and mania. These additional ingredients are also unregulated. Just add to this the fact that Malik et al, 2010 found that ‘caffeine increases the amount of sugary beverages consumed by people’ we begin to see a picture of why the incidence of obesity and diabetes in young people is on the rise.

The very fact that you get withdrawal symptoms if you suddenly remove it surely should be alarming us to the detrimental effect that it has on our bodies. Caffeine, after all, is a drug. It can establish a pattern of addictive behaviour and should be treated as a drug and regulated as one. The current lack of regulation is unacceptable and it is only with increased awareness and acceptance of its harmful effects that we can move forward and get this out of the hands of our children.

For more information on this or any other issues please contact The Food Physio or book an appointment now with one of our nutritional therapists.

This article was published by The Courier on June 10th, 2016.

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