Are children consuming too much caffeine?

In a recent report based on the National Poll on Children’s Health conducted by the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, researchers at the University of Michigan Health explored parental perceptions, attitudes, and awareness regarding their children’s caffeine consumption.

Study: Parents Asleep on Teen Caffeine Consumption? Image Credit: nednapa/Shutterstock.comStudy: Parents Asleep on Teen Caffeine Consumption? Image Credit: nednapa/Shutterstock.com

About the study

Caffeine is widely present in various foods and beverages and can cause several health issues, particularly in teenagers.

The C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health investigated parents' awareness and perceptions of their childs caffeine consumption. This poll was conducted using a nationally representative sample.

The survey was conducted in February 2024, targeting parents with children aged 0-18 years. Specifically, the report focused on responses from 1,095 parents with teens aged 13-18.

The sample was carefully weighted to reflect the U.S. population, and the survey achieved a 61% completion rate. The margin of error ranged from ±2 to 7 percentage points.

Findings

Approximately 25% of parents reported that their teenage child consumed caffeine either daily or nearly daily.

Common sources from which teenagers obtained caffeine included soda (which was reported by 73% of parents), tea (which was reported by 32%), coffee (reported by 31%), and energy drinks (reported by 22%).

Teenagers primarily consumed caffeine at home, as reported by 81% of parents, but also while eating out (43%), with their friends (35%), and at school (25%). Teens aged 16-18 were more likely to consume caffeine daily than those aged 13-15.

Answering questions related to reasons for caffeine consumption, parents reported that caffeine was consumed because it is present in favorite products (43%), peer influence (23%), to stay alert or awake (18%), manage early school times (16%), or aid studying (13%).

Regarding parental awareness and attitudes, two-thirds of parents believed they could gauge if their teen consumed excessive amounts of caffeine. At the same time, 60% showed awareness regarding the risks posed by highly caffeine products.

While 64% believed that daily caffeine limits according to health recommendations for teens are under 100mg, 57% said that they rarely checked caffeine contents while purchasing drinks for their teens.

Regarding parental behavior around caffeine, 67% reported that they consumed caffeine, 34% said that they were trying to reduce the amount of caffeine they consumed, and 16% reported that their child was trying to reduce their caffeine intake.

Conclusions

The findings suggest that while many parents are aware of caffeine's risks, there is still a gap in understanding the appropriate limits and monitoring intake.

With caffeine commonly consumed at home, parents can play a crucial role in reducing their teens' intake by choosing non-caffeinated products and educating them about the risks.

Caffeine stimulates the nervous system and the brain, boosting alertness and energy, but can cause dependence and negative side effects, particularly in teens.

Excessive caffeine can impact teens' sleep, school performance, and mood, with adverse effects such as headaches and heart palpitations.

The Food and Drug Administration has no specific guidelines for teens, but experts have suggested that their intake is limited to 100 mg daily. The Mott Poll found that many parents are unaware of these limits and the caffeine content in various products, including soda, energy drinks, and snack foods.

As teens gain independence, they often consume caffeine without parental oversight. Parents should discuss the risks of excessive caffeine with their teens, check product labels, and encourage non-caffeinated alternatives.

Reducing caffeine intake can be challenging and may cause withdrawal symptoms. Parents can use their own experiences to help teens cut back gradually and may seek support from healthcare providers.

Addressing caffeine consumption early can prevent dependency and related health issues, promoting better overall health and well-being for teenagers.

Source:
Priyanjana Pramanik

Written by

Priyanjana Pramanik

Priyanjana Pramanik is a writer based in Kolkata, India, with an academic background in Wildlife Biology and economics. She has experience in teaching, science writing, and mangrove ecology. Priyanjana holds Masters in Wildlife Biology and Conservation (National Centre of Biological Sciences, 2022) and Economics (Tufts University, 2018). In between master's degrees, she was a researcher in the field of public health policy, focusing on improving maternal and child health outcomes in South Asia. She is passionate about science communication and enabling biodiversity to thrive alongside people. The fieldwork for her second master's was in the mangrove forests of Eastern India, where she studied the complex relationships between humans, mangrove fauna, and seedling growth.

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