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Effects of Caffeine Consumption in Children and Adolescents

By Laura Linnemeier

We live in a fast-paced world, and many people feel the need to use caffeine to keep up. Even our children are feeling the pressure to use caffeine, whether it’s to get energized for an early morning exam or to stay up until 3 am to finish Season 2 of Pretty Little Liars. Regardless of the reason, there is no doubt that caffeine is well loved by Americans. We consume it from various sources, ranging from a can of Coca-Cola (23-25 milligrams of caffeine), to a cup of brewed, black tea (14-70 mg), to a 5-hour energy beverage (a whopping 200-207 mg of caffeine!).  The Mayo Clinic recommends no more than 400 mg of caffeine per day for the average adult. Adolescents can have some caffeine, if they limit their intake to 100 mg per day. It recommends no caffeine for children.

Caffeine is a stimulant. It can elevate heart rate and blood pressure, as well as cause insomnia, restlessness, jitteriness, irritability, and an upset stomach. A previous study on the effects of caffeine in children shows that kids have a dose-dependent increase in blood pressure and compensatory decrease in heart rate with caffeine intake. In other words, the more caffeine a child consumes, the more stimulated they will become.

A recent article out of the University at Buffalo examined the effects of caffeine on children. Specifically, it studied children’s cardiovascular response to caffeine based on their age and stage of pubertal development. The study found that after puberty, males have a greater cardiovascular response to caffeine than females. This means that post-pubertal young men under the influence of caffeine have an even greater increase in blood pressure compared to post-pubertal young women. Interestingly enough, researchers also found that young women have a varying response to caffeine based on the timing of their menstrual cycle. Adolescent women in the first half of their cycle, termed the follicular phase, have a greater increase in blood pressure with caffeine intake.

Additionally, the study examined the effect of caffeine on children’s behavior. The children were given a list of adjectives to describe mood after caffeine intake. Some of the more popular responses were “energetic”, “stomach ache”, “sleepy”, “queasy”, “strong”, and “sweaty”. It has been suggested in some research that caffeine may affect the young mind in a way that can lead to behavioral issues in the future. Therefore it would be interesting to further study the effects of caffeine on the behavior of children.

What this means for you:

This article is a reminder to all, adults and children alike, to be careful about caffeine intake. It is a stimulant that can have marked effects on the cardiovascular system. There are limits to how much caffeine one should consume in a day: only a few cups of brewed, black coffee (90-200 mg caffeine per cup) for an adult, one cup (of weak) coffee for an adolescent, and none for children. There are documented increases in blood pressure with caffeine consumption in children, with the most prominent effects seen in post-pubertal males.


Mayo Clinic Staff. “Nutrition and Healthy Eating.” Caffeine Content for Coffee, Tea, Soda and More. Mayo Clinic, 13 May 2014. Web. 05 Aug. 2014.

Mayo Clinic Staff. “Nutrition and Healthy Eating.” Caffeine: How Much Is Too Much? Mayo Clinic, 14 Apr. 2014. Web. 05 Aug. 2014.

Temple, Jennifer L., Amanda M. Ziegler, Adam Graczyk, Ashley Bendlin, Teresa Sion, and Karina Vattana. “Cardiovascular Responses to Caffeine by Gender and Pubertal Stage.” Pediatrics 134.1 (2014): 112-19.