Adolescents Drink Too Much Caffeine
Even though it’s widely available and socially acceptable (if not encouraged), it’s important to remember that caffeine is a drug.
That’s at the heart of a study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior concerning the potential damage to young people that results from caffeine consumption. Adolescents are the fastest-growing population of caffeine users – 83.2% of teenagers consume caffeinated beverages regularly, and at about 96% consume them occasionally.
And it’s not all about coffee. Many teens don’t realize that tea, including iced tea, and sodas can contain substantial amounts of caffeine.
The Mayo Clinic recommends that up to 400 mg of caffeine a day is probably safe for most healthy adults. That’s approximately 4 cups of brewed coffee, 10 cans of cola or two “energy shot” drinks. But 500-600 mg a day or more (termed “heavy daily caffeine use”) can cause side effects, such as nervousness, anxiety, jitteriness, sleep problems, gastrointestinal disturbances, tremors, increased heart rate and in extreme cases, death.
Even moderate doses (100-400 mg) can cause these symptoms in children and adolescents. Prior studies show that many adolescents are consuming 60-800 mg per day. The Mayo Clinic suggests a maximum of 100 mg a day for adolescents and none at all for younger children.
This study investigated 166 young people (42% were male, 72% students in grades 9 and 10). The team collected responses from 20 discussion groups and data gathered from a questionnaire. Findings showed that 44.6% of respondents drank caffeinated beverages 1 to 6 times per week, 11.4% consumed a caffeinated beverage every day, and only 4.8% never consumed drinks containing caffeine.
The main reason participants gave for consuming caffeinated drinks was to feel more alert, which they believed would help them study better.