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  1. torachi
    Even young children appear to be consuming more caffeine, so much so that caffeine could be contributing to sleep problems in primary school children, researchers found.

    Three-quarters of children ages 5 to 12 consumed caffeine on an average day in a survey of parents at routine clinic visits by William J. Warzak, PhD, of the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, and colleagues.

    The more caffeine children consumed, the fewer hours they slept on average (P=0.02), the researchers reported online in the Journal of Pediatrics, although not drawing a causal link.

    The average intake was two or three times higher than the 22- to 23-mg daily average reported nearly a decade ago, they noted.

    Eight- to 12-year-olds in Warzak's study averaged 109 mg of caffeine -- the equivalent of nearly three 12-oz cans of soda each day. But even the 52 mg of caffeine consumed by 5- to 7-year-olds on an typical day was well above the level known to have a physiologic effect on adults, the researchers noted.

    "There's really no role for caffeine in kids," Marcie Schneider, MD, of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, emphasized in commenting on the study. "We know that caffeine raises your blood pressure, raises your heart rate, and can be addictive."

    Unlike older teens who are likely drinking coffee to wake up in the mornings for school, the assumption is that younger kids are getting most of their caffeine from soda, noted Schneider, who serves as a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition.

    She urged pediatricians to raise parents' awareness of the issue, perhaps as part of the yearly checkup.

    "We routinely ask kids what they're eating and drinking," she told MedPage Today. "It may be something that is worth pediatricians pointing out to parents that this kid does not need caffeine in their life partially because it does some things that are negative."

    Warzak's group surveyed parents of 228 children seen at an urban outpatient pediatric clinic during routine visits about the children's average daily consumption of drinks and snacks with an emphasis on caffeine-containing items. None of the children had a known sleep disorder or medical condition that might cause bedwetting.

    Illustrated depictions were provided to help parents accurately estimate serving sizes.

    Nearly all of the caffeine intake was consumed through beverages. Few children got a meaningful amount of caffeine from food.

    "Caffeine's diuretic properties have encouraged behavioral health practitioners to eliminate caffeine from the diet of children with enuresis," the researchers noted.

    However, they found that intake didn't correlate with the number of nights a child wet the bed (P=0.49). Overall, enuresis was actually less likely in children who consumed caffeine.

    Children in Spanish-speaking families tended to consume less caffeine (P=0.14) and also reportedly wet the bed less frequently (P=0.04) than their English-speaking peers.

    The researchers cautioned that interpretation of these results may be complicated by cultural differences in reporting children's behavioral health concerns and that their study could not draw any causal conclusions.

    Schneider also noted the use of parental reports and the relatively small sample as limitations.

    Although the findings offered no support for removing caffeine from children's diets on the basis of bedwetting, Warzak's group concluded in the paper that "given the potential effects of caffeine on childhood behavior, a screen of caffeine consumption might be beneficial when evaluating childhood behavioral health concerns."

    By Crystal Phend, Senior Staff Writer, MedPage Today
    Published: December 16, 2010



  1. torachi
    Local doctor: Caffeine and kids don’t mix

    Some people just cannot start their day without a cup of coffee or a favorite soft drink. This is because they both contain caffeine.

    As we take that last gulp, do we ever wonder how it affects our bodies? More importantly, do we wonder how it affects our kids?

    Whether the caffeinated products, commonly referred to as energy drinks and power bars, are used as convenient snacks or a boost before a rigorous athletic practice, kids and their parents should be aware of what they’re consuming.

    Energy drinks, in eye-catching packaging and hyped promotions, have become increasingly popular with teens and the younger crowd. However, nothing beats a real meal for both that well-fed feeling and the nutritional satisfaction the body needs.

    Dr. Chandra Puttagunta, a pediatrician at the Children’s Health Clinic in Fenton, said she is against any child drinking energy drinks. When a young patient comes to her, she always asks them what they drink. She is concerned because she hears stories that children are skipping breakfast and drinking an energy drink instead, as they walk to the bus stop, just to keep them awake in school.

    With downsides, such as heart rate problems, headaches, extra calories, and dental cavities from the high levels of sugar, Puttagunta had nothing good to say about the drinks. “Don’t drink any of them,” she said. “They should be banned.”

    For athletes believing they will get an energy boost from consuming an energy drink loaded with caffeine, Puttagunta said instead they can become dehydrated because caffeine is a diuretic. “They think it’s helping but it’s causing more problems,” she said.

    Puttagunta said there’s nothing better to drink than plain tap water and milk. She said pediatricians are speaking out against even giving natural juice to babies, because of the high sugar content. She encourages parents to give their babies and children only milk and water.

    Education is key, said the doctor. “I show them (parents) how much of the drink is sugar,” she said.

    Not only do energy drinks contain high levels of sugar and caffeine, they may also contain mysterious ingredients, some of which have not had their effectiveness tested by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Some of the products contain guarana as a source of caffeine and taurine, an amino acid believed to enhance caffeine’s effect. Some of the products contain herbal supplements that are not regulated by the FDA, such as ginseng, according to kidshealth.org.

    Although energy drinks and power bars can be found nearly everywhere, including corner convenience stores and gas stations, they are expensive. Next time someone is tempted to grab one of the drinks or bars, be aware that there are better and less expensive alternatives.

    Puttagunta said people complain about the high cost of gas for their car, yet they will walk into a gas station and buy a five-hour energy drink that costs several dollars. “The name is misleading,” she said.

    Although caffeine is a legal ingredient in food and drinks, it is still a stimulant. It can cause side effects, such as jitteriness, upset stomach, headaches and sleep problems.

    Studies suggest that up to 300 milligrams of caffeine daily is safe for kids. If parents pay close attention, they might notice that their child is sensitive to caffeine. They might notice that their child develops temporary anxiety or is irritable, followed by a “crash” after the caffeine has worn off.

    Because caffeine is a stimulant to the central nervous system, regular consumption can cause mild physical dependence, however, not in the same way as with addictive drugs.

    Coffee drinkers who abruptly stop drinking the beverage know they could have a few rough days. As their body adjusts, they could exhibit withdrawal symptoms, such as headache, fatigue, anxiety, irritability, depression and difficulty concentrating.

    Puttagunta said she is also against flavored vitamin water, which she believes is loaded with unnecessary ingredients. If one feels the need for extra vitamins, she suggests they take a one-a-day vitamin and steer clear of all the flavored waters, which have many hidden calories.

    By Sharon Stone
    Published: Thursday, December 16, 2010 10:41 AM EST

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