Is Coffee good or bad for your child?

Does your child drool at the sight of cold coffee topped with whipped cream and chocolate syrup? Does your child insist on adding coffee to his glass of milk every morning? A report in The Journal of Pediatrics reveals that 75% children consume coffee on a daily basis. Here, we look at whether children should consume coffee, and what side effects it can cause in kids and teens!

1. Restricts calcium absorption: Caffeine may restrict calcium absorption of in the body, which may affect the growth and development of a child. According to research, every 100 milligrams of coffee intake leads to a loss of 6 milligrams of calcium from the body. Coffee addiction can take a toll on the bone health of your teenager during the critical growth years.
2. Leads to obesity: Cold coffee is replete with staggering amounts of sugar, fat, and calories. It may lead to obesity in children. Early obesity begins during the childhood and may continue even during adulthood and cause severe health complications.
3. Causes dental decay: Acidic drinks can weaken the teeth. Coffee is acidic in nature (pH 5.0-5.1). Children who drink coffee are more likely to suffer from loss of enamel and cavities. It also stains the teeth of children, making them look unsightly.
4. Results in insomnia: Children between the age of 5 and 12 years need at least 11 hours of sleep and teens need 9-10 hours. Coffee has five times more caffeine per serving than soda or tea. It lasts in the body for up to eight hours, leading to sleep loss. Kids who drink coffee to boost their stamina and energy levels affect their sleep negatively. During puberty, the maximum number of neural connections develops. Coffee induces sleep disturbances and reduces sleepiness. As coffee consumption interferes with deep sleep and leads to sleep disturbances, it limits the neural development of the brain.
5. Increases anxiety: According to several reports, children who drink coffee suffer from anxiety disorders. Coffee stimulates the central nervous system. It can cause the children to become hyperactive, nervous and anxious. Caffeine increases the heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature and production of gastric juices too.
6. Loss of appetite: Children should have a balanced diet full of whole grains, protein, vitamins, and minerals. Coffee curbs appetite in children and leads to a decline in nutritional intake. So, while coffee does not stunt the growth of children, by lowering appetite and with lower intake of nutrition, it adversely affects the growth and development of children.
7. Coffee is bad for heart: If kids already have heart problems then drinking coffee will make it worse! In a case of an undiagnosed arrhythmia, an irregular or abnormal heartbeat, caffeine will worsen the condition or can exacerbate the arrhythmia. You can expect palpitation, irregular heartbeat or an increase in heart rate with drinking too much coffee. The journal Pediatrics discusses that coffee as a stimulant has potent heart and blood pressure in boys and girls after puberty. Studies conclude that coffee as a stimulant has more effects on adolescent boys than adolescent girls while no gender-specific changes were noticed in younger children.
8. Coffee increases blood pressure: Caffeine constricts the blood vessels. 4 mg of caffeine per kilogram of the body weight can increase blood pressure.
9. Coffee is bad for the nervous system: Children's brains are a bit more sensitive to caffeine than that of adults. As such, caffeine can cause hyperactivity. Jitteriness and nervousness becomes a common feature. Kids may also experience sleeplessness at a very young age. Too much coffee can also give headaches, difficulty in concentrating. Severe toxicity by the coffee can also cause fits!
10. Severe toxicity by coffee: One can experience symptoms like nausea, stomach upset, vomiting, muscle cramps, twitching and agitation if a child consumes more than 4.5 mg of caffeine per pound of body weight.
11. Leads to behavioral issues: Coffee is a stimulant in nature. It can lead to hyperactivity, restlessness, inability to concentrate and a host of behavioral problems in children. If children are made to cease drinking coffee abruptly, it will aggravate the behavioral issues.
12. Headaches: Coffee provides instant relief from headache, but it is also one of the most recognized sources of headaches or migraine in teenagers. Excessive coffee consumption by teens is the most common cause of headache. Sometimes coffee can also lead to severe withdrawal headache once you stop consuming it.
13. Coffee is a dehydrating agent: Coffee is a diuretic. It eliminates water from the body through urination. It's not clear however as to how much amount of caffeine can cause dehydration this way. It might depend on the person consuming coffee in a day. Therefore, in hot weather when kids need to replenish lost water from the body, avoiding coffee altogether might be wise.
14. Poor performance: Large doses of coffee affect your teen's attention span at the school. Though small amounts of coffee can sharpen your teen's mental focus and help him concentrate at school or college, too much of coffee can have a detrimental effect. It not only reduces his attention span, but also causes muscle tremors and nervousness. These tremors reduce her ability to interact effectively at school or college.
15. Under nourishment: Coffee increases your teen's metabolism rate while suppressing her appetite. Children who have too much coffee fill themselves with empty calories and miss getting enough nutrition from other food and suffer from stunted development. Excess coffee also leads to low iron and calcium absorption, which is essential for strong bones and teeth.
16. Jitters: Coffee is a stimulant for the central nervous system, and it affects the brain and its functions. While moderate coffee intake increases oxygen supply to the brain and awakens the mind, excess coffee intake causes the body systems to move slightly faster. The situation can lead to jitters i.e. your teen is jumpy or nervous all the time.
17. Hallucination: Teens who consume coffee are more prone to mental disorders in the later stages of life. A regular cup of coffee interferes with his brain and can also lead to hallucinations. The hallucinations occur as coffee leads to nervousness in teens.
Giving your children coffee is good so long as it is in moderation. If your child is a coffee addict, you can help, by reducing his intake and avert the withdrawal symptoms like muscle aches, headaches, depression, and irritability. If your adolescent child is asking for coffee, it's ok for him to have the occasional 8-ounce drink at least 6 hours before bedtime. In effect, coffee is a 'drug'. Apart from the several drinks and foods that contain caffeine and which your children might already be consuming, an additional addiction of coffee can make it worse.

The writer is a freelance contributor at

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