Where Kids Get Their Caffeine

Caffeine intake among children shifted from soda to coffee

(RxWiki News) It seems caffeinated drinks are available everywhere you look, from traditional soft drinks to energy drinks. Children and teens have noted this availability as well.

A recent study found that three quarters of all children and teens consumed caffeine daily.

However, the amount of caffeine children consumed did not change much from 1999 to 2010.

Instead, the children and teens were getting more caffeine from coffee and energy drinks than from soft drinks.

"Limit how much caffeine your children drink."

This study, led by Amy M. Branum, PhD, of the Division of Vital Statistics at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), aimed to understand what US children's and teen's caffeine intake was.

The researchers analyzed the dietary information collected from youth during the 1999-2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys.

The six surveys given during these years sample approximately 5,000 nationally representative US residents of all ages, but this study was based on the findings from participants aged 2 to 22.

The researchers found that 73 percent of children consumed caffeine on a typical day, but the overall caffeine intake across all children did not change significantly over the decade surveyed.

The authors did find two smaller trends related to caffeine intake during the study period, however.

The amount of caffeine that children aged 2 to 11 consumed declined from 1999 to 2010, as did the caffeine consumption among Mexican-American children.

What also changed overall was where the children got their caffeine from. In more recent years, kids were drinking less soda but more coffee and energy drinks.

While children were getting 62 percent of their caffeine from soft drinks at the start of that decade, they were only getting 38 percent of their caffeine from soda 10 years later.

Meanwhile, the proportion of caffeine kids got from coffee increased from 10 percent in 1999 to 24 percent in 2009-2010.

Energy drinks were unavailable during the first survey study year (1999-2000), but by 2009-2010, they accounted for 6 percent of children's caffeine intake.

Other sources of caffeine that ranked lower included flavored dairy drinks, sweetened grains, tea and sweets.

Therefore, even though children did not appear to be getting more caffeine recently than they did 10 years earlier, trends in the caffeinated beverages they are drinking have shifted.

Eve Pearson, a registered and licensed dietitian who owns Nutriworks Comprehensive Nutrition Consulting, said it saddens her to hear of so many children consuming caffeine daily.

"The children of today are overfed but undernourished," she said. "To know that so many of them are reaching for caffeine for energy when they can get it from food is just sad.  Caffeine alone doesn't even provide the body with energy but it feels like it does."

Pearson also pointed out something that many parents and consumers may not realize – that most energy drinks have a Supplement Facts label on them instead of a Nutrition Facts label.

"In order words, energy drinks aren't regulated by any government agency," Pearson said. "Therefore, they could contain other ingredients that aren't listed on the label, and we really don't even know if the company is being honest about what they say is in the drink. Hopefully that will make parents think twice before buying these drinks for kids."

This study was published February 10 in the journal Pediatrics. The research was funded by the CDC without outside funding. The authors reported no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
February 10, 2014