For American kids coffee not colas seem to be the new source of caffeine. Is the healthy?
For kids, coffee may be new apple juice
By Jonnelle Marte 2 hours ago
The most popular drug taken by America’s children is not marijuana, alcohol or Ritalin. It’s caffeine. But more and more kids have switched drug dealers and now get their fix from coffee instead of cola.
A study published Monday in Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, found that kids and young adults ages 2 to 22 are getting a bigger share of their caffeine fix by guzzling coffee, with that portion of caffeine intake reaching 24% in 2010, up from 10% a decade ago. Soda, while holding on to its title as the most popular source of caffeine, is losing its fizz, however: The share of caffeine children get from soda declined to 38% from 62% over that same time period, the report found. “Coffee has changed dramatically over the last 10 years in terms of the variety and availability,” says Amy Branum, lead author of the report and a health statistician for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “There are a lot of drinks out there that are going to be more available and appealing to children.”
Why are more kids opting for a cup of joe? Experts say there has been a reversal in attitudes in recent years as coffee, which was previously painted as dangerous—especially for children—is coming to be viewed as relatively healthy. Many of the reports that linked coffee consumption to stunted growth and heart disease have been debunked, says coffee historian Mark Pendergrast, author of “Uncommon Grounds,” a book on how coffee has changed over the years. Instead, recent research has shown that drinking coffee can lower the risk of liver cancer and protect against Type 2 diabetes, in addition to providing other health benefits.
Meanwhile, soda, which was actually perceived to be the healthier option in the 1960s, is now associated with obesity, diabetes and heart disease. In New York City, former Mayor Michael Bloomberg was unsuccessful last year in his campaign to ban the sale of sodas and other sugary drinks that were larger than 16 ounces, but health advocates continue to organize ad campaigns that draw attention to the dangers of sugary drinks. Soda is also becoming harder for children to access at school, as some have banned the carbonated drinks. And the American Beverage Association, a trade association representing the industry, says it is helping people make healthier choices by providing calorie information on vending machines and encouraging lower-calorie choices and exercise.
Coffee is making a comeback overall in the U.S. as more consumers begin to view it as a delicacy. Coffee fans, much like wine connoisseurs, pride themselves on knowing the way the flavor of a cup of coffee can change depending on the type of beans, what sea level the beans are grown at and how they’re processed, says Pendergrast. “Coffee, through the Starbucks (SBUX) phenomenon and other specialty coffee shops, has gotten a better image of being hip and cool,” he says.
Among children, the growing appeal of coffee might be partially blamed on frappuccinos and similar drinks. Teenagers, who may not have acquired a taste for a straight black cup of joe, can instead get a fix by stopping by Dunkin’ Donuts to get a frozen coolatta or passing by Starbucks to pick up a frappuccino. Pendergrast likened these blended drinks to caffeinated milk shakes. “The milk and added sugar cut the acidity and make it more palatable for children — and for adults for that matter,” he says. (Starbucks lists more than 25 types of frappuccinos on its website, with variations including a double chocolate chip frappuccino and a salted caramel mocha.) Starbucks spokeswoman Holly Shafer says the company does not market to children and that it provides nutritional and caffeine information on its offerings to help parents make healthy choices for their children.
Also see: Americans drink half the coffee they did in 1946
Of course, even if coffee is getting a better reputation, the jury is still out on how much it can help a person’s health — and whether children should be consuming it at all. The American Academy of Pediatrics says “stimulant-containing energy drinks have no place” in children’s diets. There are no clear guidelines on how much caffeine children can have or when it is safe for them to start drinking it since most of the research regarding caffeine has been focused on adults, says Branum. Parents should also be aware that coffee and energy drinks, which accounted for 6% of the caffeine consumed by children in 2010, contain more caffeine than soda, she adds.
Any health benefits coffee does have might be canceled out if it is served with enough sugar and milk. And whether it is in a hot cup of black coffee or an icy glass of soda, caffeine is an addictive drug that can lead to headaches and other withdrawal symptoms for people who stop drinking it after becoming accustomed to having it on a daily basis, says Pendergrast. “I wouldn’t want my third grader to be addicted to coffee,” he says. “I wouldn’t want my third grader to be addicted to Coca-Cola either.”