My son is always asking for caffeinated soft drinks. Is it OK to let him have them?
It's a good idea to keep caffeine consumption to a minimum, especially in younger kids. The United States doesn't have guidelines for caffeine intake and kids, but Canadian guidelines recommend that preschoolers 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.
Caffeine is a drug that's naturally produced in the leaves and seeds of many plants. It's also made artificially and added to certain foods. At lower levels, caffeine can make people feel more alert and energetic.
In both kids and adults, though, too much caffeine can cause an upset stomach, headaches, and sleeping problems. Especially in young kids, it doesn't take a lot of caffeine to produce these effects.
Too many sweetened caffeinated drinks can lead to obesity and dental cavities. And since caffeine is a diuretic, it causes the body to eliminate more water and can contribute to dehydration. Caffeine can also aggravate heart problems and some behavioral and nervous system disorders.
Remember that because kids don't weigh as much, the effects of a caffeinated beverage on a child will be much more pronounced than on an adult.
Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: February 2010
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