by Lisa Fogarty
Kids love sugar. This isn't exactly newsworthy, is it? But a new study reveals that the under-18 set is straying away from soda and turning instead to sweetened coffee drinks. Coffee is to blame for nearly a quarter of children's daily caffeine intake, up 10 percent from a decade ago. The study suggests that our negative attitude toward soda has a lot to do with it, while our acceptance of coffee and some of its positive and healthy attributes is contributing to their habit. And yes, I said habit. Researchers fear all of the yummy, creamy frappuccinos and chocolate chip mocha lattes could be to blame for a potential future caffeine addiction.
As an adult who prefers sugary, flavored caffeine beverages to straight-up, serious cups of black coffee, I understand the appeal these drinks have for children. But I also understand the appeal of apple pie and Twinkies. If we're talking about kids who are too young to have an allowance or spend money of their own, then it's obvious parents can keep them from drinking these beverages. There's no reason a 6-year-old child needs to cool off at the beach with a vanilla frappuccino.
Teens are different, though. I see them making pit stops at my local Starbucks after school and emerging with Venti-size frothy drinks in hand -- so I believe this is happening. They are consuming tons of sugar, which is the only thing that makes me wince. But, as far as caffeine goes, is a sugary coffee any worse than chugging down cans of Pepsi or Coke, like my friends and I did as teens? Is it worse than inhaling chocolate bars and energy drinks at 9 in the morning, as I've witnessed young kids doing at school?
When I was a child, I was allowed to sip a bit of my parents' espresso after dinner. They are from Italy, where young people often drink milky coffee in the morning with their biscotti and STILL manage to live perfectly long and healthy lives. A bit of coffee isn't going to hurt our children. At the end of the day, I wouldn't mind it if my teen daughter drank coffee and reaped some of its health benefits, including antioxidants.
Do you let your children drink coffee?
What do you think is an acceptable age?