Caffeine: Friend or Foe?
It’s a common occurrence to see youth walking around with a can of Rockstar or Monster. But have we thought about what they’re actually consuming in the form of caffeine? And it’s not just the energy drinks, but those coffee drinks as well.
One can of Rockstar has 160mg of caffeine. A caffè mocha has 174 mg. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that adolescents get no more than 100 mg per day. In one can or cup, they’re consuming more than one and a half times the recommended amount. If they’re drinking three per day, that adds up to around five times the recommended amount. Some youth report that friends drink four of five energy drinks a day.
In addition to caffeine, these drinks have a lot of sugar. One can of Rockstar contains 60 grams of sugar, which is the equivalent to about 1/3 cup. Now times that by three, and they’re consuming almost a cup of sugar per day.
In addition to weight gain from the sugar, there are negative side effects of caffeine. Consuming too much caffeine can cause nervousness, irritability, insomnia, rapid heartbeat, and increased blood pressure—none of which are good for kids. Side effects also include nausea and diarrhea. Kids with medical conditions may be at even greater risk. Caffeine in high doses becomes toxic. There have been increased calls to poison control and even reported deaths of teens from overdose.
Withdrawal symptoms include headache, fatigue, decreased alertness (which then makes them want to consume more caffeine), difficulty concentrating, flu-like symptoms, irritability, depressed mood, muscle pain or stiffness, and nausea and/or vomiting. None of these make it optimal for learning and may lower their academic performance.
Teens have started drinking energy drinks at a record pace. Sometimes it is to stay up to study, but a lot of times it just for the “high” they get from the caffeine. It’s time we share the dangers of too much caffeine and energy drinks with our kids. Caffeine is a stimulant like cocaine, nicotine, meth and amphetamines. It is a drug and it is addictive.
Most of us would probably not give our children illegal stimulants, so we should rethink their use of legal stimulants.