Teen coffee drinking grows
The National Coffee Association says younger coffee drinkers are becoming a larger percentage of the occasional coffee drinker segment as the category of cold coffee beverages continues to grow.
NPD Group, a market research firm based in Port Washington, N.Y., has statistics showing the number of teens drinking coffee in cafes or restaurants has increased 12 percent since last year, on top of a 15 percent rise the year before.
So what's the buzz about coffee and coffee houses?
Let's face it, the jolt from the caffeine is a strong attraction. Besides, it makes teens feel older, classy and sophisticated.
Coffee houses are considered a positive teen trend. "I'll meet you after class for a cup of coffee," is fast replacing "How about grabbing some nachos and a Coke?" Gone are the days of "Ewwwww, how can you drink that stuff?" Now, teens are fighting their parents for dibs on the first cup of coffee in the morning.
Parents don't have to be worried but they should definitely be aware of how much coffee their teens' drink. Caffeine can interfere with deep sleep that may affect teens' schoolwork and getting adequate sleep during their growing years. Caffeine also increases calcium excretion which teens typically don't consume enough of and is vital for proper bone growth and development.
Is there a limit to the amount of caffeine you or your teen should be consuming each day? How much is too much? People of all ages keep track of the amount of caffeine they're consuming when they feel the need to give their systems a jolt.
It has recently been established that as little as one cup of coffee per day can trigger addiction in a teenager. While we depend on these things to wake us up, coffee has been found to actually disrupt sleep cycles and short-term memory abilities -- not far from opposite of the effect we're trying to obtain.
Of course, there are plenty of other products with caffeine, but being cheap, easily attainable and even classy, coffee will continue to stand firmly as the most popular source of caffeine in the world, even for us teens.
Beyond the small portion of coffee-drinking teens seeking a "caffeine wake" stands the bigger picture. The goal is to convey an image: Drinking coffee is a "style." Drinks with diluted espresso flavors, particularly cold drinks (such as a Starbucks Frappuccino) are among the most commonly ordered drinks among teens, giving us the chance to have coffee with a taste that appeals to the young. That being said, coffee has become a part of socialization rather than just a beverage. Teens see it as sophisticated and grown up. With more than 300 million cups of coffee consumed per day, Americans are super-caffeinated. And while teens account for only about 4 percent of this, a fad is slowly emerging.
Most teens suffer from sleep disorders that are either circadian related or a result of poor choices and habits. As teens find greater freedom, they usually participate in activities that harm the sleep cycle. For example, teens will often stay up late with their friends and sleep in late on weekends; both activities disrupt the body clock's ability to regulate consistent sleep/wake cycles. Coffee drinking usually starts in teenage years, and caffeine is one of the most significant disrupters of sleep. Even morning coffee can have an adverse effect on the ability to fall asleep at night.
For older kids or teens who may be getting more caffeine than they should, it's important to watch their caffeine consumption. If your teen has taken up a coffee-drinking habit, one cup a day can easily turn into several (as most adults know), especially if your teen is using coffee to stay awake during late-night study sessions.
The best way to reduce your child's caffeine intake is to cut back slowly. Otherwise, he or she could get headaches and feel achy, depressed, or just downright lousy. Try cutting your child's caffeine consumption by substituting noncaffeinated drinks for caffeinated sodas and coffee (water, caffeine-free sodas, and caffeine-free teas). Keep track of how many caffeinated drinks your child has each day, and substitute one drink per week with a caffeine-free alternative until he or she has gotten below the 100-milligram mark.
As you're cutting back the caffeine, your child may feel tired. The best bet is for your child to hit the sack, not the sodas: It's just your child's body's way of saying that more rest is necessary. Don't worry - your child's energy levels will return to normal in a few days.
Although kids get most of their caffeine from sodas, it's also found in coffee, tea, chocolate, coffee ice cream or frozen yogurt, as well as pain relievers and other over-the-counter medicines. Some parents may give their children iced tea in place of soda, thinking that it's a better alternative. But iced tea can contain as much sugar and caffeine as soda.
Here's how some sources of caffeine compare:
Item Amount of Item Amount of Caffeine
|Jolt soft drink||12 ounces ||71.2 mg|
|Mountain Dew||12 ounces||55.0 mg|
|Coca-Cola||12 ounces||34.0 mg|
|Diet Coke||12 ounces||45.0 mg|
|Pepsi||12 ounces||38.0 mg|
|7-Up||12 ounces ||0 mg|
|brewed coffee (drip method)||5 ounces||115 mg*|
|iced tea||12 ounces||70 mg*|
|dark chocolate||1 ounce||20 mg*|
|milk chocolate||1 ounce||6 mg*|
|cocoa beverage||5 ounces||4 mg*|
|chocolate milk beverage||8 ounces||5 mg*|
|cold relief medication||1 tablet||30 mg*|
* denotes average amount of caffeine
(Source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration and National Soft Drink Association)
Most parents wouldn't dream of giving their kids a toasty cup of coffee, but they may routinely serve soft drinks containing caffeine. Although it's likely that your child will ingest caffeine at some time, it's a good idea to keep caffeine consumption to a minimum, especially in younger children.
Although the United States hasn't yet developed guidelines for caffeine intake and kids, Canadian guidelines recommend that preschool children get no more than 45 milligrams of caffeine a day. That's equivalent to the average amount of caffeine found in a 12-ounce (355-milliliter) can of soda or four 1.5-ounce (43-gram) milk chocolate bars.
A stimulant that affects children and adults similarly, caffeine is a drug that's naturally produced in the leaves and seeds of many plants. Caffeine is also made artificially and added to certain foods. Caffeine is defined as a drug because it stimulates the central nervous system. At lower levels, caffeine can make people feel more alert and like they have more energy.
In both kids and adults, too much caffeine can cause:
- jitteriness and nervousness
- upset stomach
- difficulty concentrating
- difficulty sleeping
- increased heart rate
- increased blood pressure
Especially in young children, it doesn't take a lot of caffeine to produce these effects.
Other reasons to limit kids' caffeine consumption include:
Consuming one 12-ounce (355-milliliter) sweetened soft drink per day increases a child's risk of obesity by 60%.
Not only do caffeinated beverages contain empty calories (calories that don't provide any nutrients), but kids who fill up on them don't get the vitamins and minerals they need from healthy sources, putting them at risk for developing nutritional deficiencies. In particular, children who drink too much soda (which usually starts between the third and eighth grades) may miss getting the calcium they need from milk to build strong bones and teeth.
Drinking too many sweetened caffeinated drinks could lead to dental cavities (or caries) from the high sugar content and the erosion of the enamel of the teeth from the acidity. Not convinced that sodas can wreak that much havoc on kids' teeth? Consider this: One 12-ounce (355-milliliter) nondiet, carbonated soft drink contains the equivalent of 10 teaspoons of sugar (49 milliliters) and 150 calories.
Caffeine is a diuretic that causes the body to eliminate water (through urinating), which may contribute to dehydration. Caffeine may be an especially poor choice in hot weather, when children need to replace water lost through perspiration.
Abruptly stopping caffeine may cause withdrawal symptoms (headaches, muscle aches, temporary depression, and irritability), especially for those who are used to consuming a lot.
Caffeine can aggravate heart problems or nervous disorders, and some children may not be aware that they're at risk.
One thing that caffeine doesn't do is stunt growth. Although scientists once worried that caffeine could hinder a child's growth, this concern isn't supported by research.
Don't get it all wrong - coffee has a heavenly taste, and one drink isn't going to result in addiction or obesity. As with all foods and drinks, it is important to remain conscious of moderation. Nevertheless, it would be nice if teens would stop and consider why they are really there when they step into a coffee shop.