It’s the stuff of college students cramming before a final. It’s what you use to get moving in the morning. But it shouldn’t be what your kids drink. Caffeine may be a way of life for many adults, but children’s bodies and the substance don’t mix well. What’s worse, caffeine doesn’t always hang out alone. Often, kids who do get their hands on it also end up consuming more calories in the form of sugar, thanks to energy drinks and soda. But what’s so bad about caffeine and sugar? Here’s a look at how both can affect kids:
What caffeine actually does
“The AAP says kids should not consume any energy drinks.”
Throughout the day, your brain produces neurotransmitters called adenosine, which are responsible for that midday slump you’re probably familiar with. The more adenosine that passes through receptors in your brain, the more tired you feel. But what if the receptors didn’t connect with adenosine? Then your body wouldn’t know to feel tired, even though it still is. That’s exactly what happens with caffeine. This chemical is roughly the same size as adenosine, or at least close enough that your receptors accept it. As the caffeine sits in your receptors, it blocks adenosine, preventing you from getting sleepy.
What’s more is that caffeine still allows other brain chemicals, like dopamine, through. This excess of happy chemicals compared to depressant ones gives you the caffeine jitters.
It might all sound harmless when broken down to the very basic brain narrative, but the process is more complex than it seems. What your brain registers dramatically impacts the rest of your body. You might get an upset stomach, increased appetite, higher blood pressure and increased heart rate, or have trouble sleeping as a result of consuming caffeine. All of the symptoms of caffeine impact kids more than they do adults. For this reason, the American Academy of Pediatrics (“AAP”) stated that kids should not consume any energy drinks.
The sugar effect
Note that the AAP said energy drinks. This is to encompass sugary beverages that contain caffeine, rather than just saying no to caffeine in general. Sports and energy drinks, which can contain both sugar and caffeine, are often marketed to kids. However, most children don’t need the calories, caffeine or sugar included in the drinks. Even with intense exercise (such as playing an after-school sport), their small bodies won’t use up the calories they’ll consume in such beverages.
“For most children engaging in routine physical activity, plain water is best,” Holly J. Benjamin, a member of the AAP Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness, said in a statement. “Sports drinks contain extra calories that children don’t need, and could contribute to obesity and tooth decay.”
Benjamin touched on another important fact about sugar – it has additional health consequences caffeine does not, such as obesity and tooth decay. From providing empty calories to messing with your kids’ brain chemistry (sugar is addictive), sweets don’t belong in your kids’ drinks.
Hydrating the healthy way
Your children’s bodies are still developing. Their brains are in a delicate state, so loading them full of chemicals like caffeine and sugar can be dangerous. In addition to removing caffeine from your kids’ diets, the World Health Organization suggests limiting sugar to 10 percent of the total calories your children consume. So, if your kids ingest 1,500 calories a day, 150 of those can be from sugar. Remember, fruit sugar still counts!
Water is the best drink for your kids, especially if they’re active. Of course, many children prefer flavored beverages. Instead of serving soda or energy drinks that contain caffeine and sugar, choose AquaBall. This naturally flavored water drinks does not contain sugar, caffeine or artificial colors.