by Lisa Fogarty
Not so long ago, coffee was strictly an adults-only beverage -- one most kids and teens wouldn't touch with a 10-foot pole. But thanks to the abundance of super-sweet caffeine drinks, energy drinks, and sodas sold at markets, gas stations, and trendy cafes, more young people are finding it pretty tempting to down 1 or 10 cold and frothy mocha drinks.
We can't blame them -- these drinks taste like dessert and are extremely appealing to young taste buds. But given their popularity and sweetness, it's sometimes easy to forget that the caffeine contained in these treats is bad for our kids' health. And, according to a recent study, the effect of caffeine is even worse for boys.
Researchers have discovered that the amount of caffeine found in just a half to a full can of soda or a cup of coffee is enough to affect children's blood pressure and heart rates -- and that boys' bodies suffer more than girls' after drinking the stimulant.
The study found that in children ages 8 to 9, gender made no difference when it came to how coffee and soda affected them. But when 49 children ages 15 to 17 were examined, boys experienced increased blood pressure compared with the girls.
The findings make a difference -- especially given these stats: 17- and 18-year-olds are reportedly drinking nearly double the amount of coffee than they were 10 years ago. And, although fewer teens are lugging around cans of Pepsi and Coke, experts believe they're replacing them with energy drinks (many of which contain just as much or more caffeine than coffee, in addition to sugar).
Some doctors recommend we treat coffee and energy drinks the way we would cigarettes -- if your teen is under 18, he or she shouldn't drink them.
I grew up in a family in which it was perfectly acceptable to give children a sip or two of espresso here and there. For this reason, I don't regard coffee as evil or anything. But, like the alcoholic beverages that my parents kept in their home, I would never have thought to take out a tin of coffee and whip myself up a frappuccino.
And don't even get me started on energy drinks.
The bottom line is that coffee, soda, and energy drinks are not healthy and should be regarded by adults the way we think of any other product that contains a potentially harmful drug. No matter how successful marketing companies are in making us believe these are family-friendly beverages, it's our job as parents to see past that and limit our children's consumption of these drinks -- or ban them altogether from their diets.
Do you let your children or young teens drink coffee or energy drinks?