In this Article
Is caffeine safe during pregnancy?
There is no disputing the importance of proper nutrition during pregnancy. There is some dispute about the safety of caffeine during this time. One concern is that caffeine may lead to miscarriages. In a study following 431 pregnant women, no relationship between caffeine consumption up to 300 mg/day and adverse pregnancy outcomes was found. Another study examined the relationship between caffeine consumption and spontaneous abortions in over 5,000 women and found no association. A recent study found that caffeine can reach the follicular fluid of the ovaries. It also found that an increase in coffee consumption was associated with an increased number of aborted pregnancies.
On the other side, research has also shown no clear relationship between caffeine intake and fertility and birth defects. Even with this evidence, everyone agrees that there is a limit for how much caffeine can be consumed during pregnancy. The majority of the subjects in the studies were consuming small to moderate amounts of caffeine. It is difficult to accurately test the effects of very high intakes of caffeine without risking the health of the mother and child.. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends a caffeine limit of the equivalent of one to two cups of coffee per day during pregnancy.
Should caffeine be consumed by children?
With the increased popularity of coffee shops, a new generation of caffeine consumers was born. Children are being exposed to caffeine with products designed specifically to target them as early as 4 years of age. With the increase in caffeine-containing products, children can now be consuming as much caffeine as some adults. Could this trend be harming children?
Children and adolescents are the fastest growing population of caffeine users, with an increase of 70% in the amount that they consume over the past 30 years. It is estimated that the average caffeine intake for children 2-11 years of age is 0.4 mg per kg of body weight each day, and those 12-17 years of age consume 0.55 mg/kg per day. This is almost half of what adults consume (1.3 mg/kg). These numbers are averages, so there are children and adolescents who are consuming even more than adults. The difference with adults and children is that there is research to show how much is acceptable for adults and what impact it will have on them when they go above that, but that is not the case with children. We can't be sure of the short-term or long-term effects of this kind of exposure to caffeine.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's School Health Policies and Programs Study (SHPPS) 2000 survey concluded that 43% of elementary schools, 89.4% of middle/junior high, and 98.2% of senior high schools had a vending machine or a school store, canteen, or snack bar where students could purchase foods or beverages. A study done by CSPI found that of the drinks sold in the 13,650 vending-machine slots surveyed, 70% were sugary drinks such as soda, juice drinks with less than 50% juice, iced tea, and "sports" drinks. Of the sodas, only 14% were diet, and only 12% of the drinks available were water. Just 5% of drink options were milk, but of those, most (57%) were high-fat, whole, or 2% milk. The trend in milk consumption clearly shows a decline over time, while soft drink consumption has risen. Studies have shown that children 2-18 years of age who consume over 9 oz of soda per day drink less milk and juice and end up consuming about 200 calories more each day compared to infrequent soda drinkers. Fortunately, this problem has gained a great deal of recognition, and some states have now enacted legislation to replace existing food and drinks of minimal nutritional value for healthier options or to restrict student access to the machines.
Companies are aware of the growing population of young caffeine drinkers. There are now products being marked directly to them. Energy drinks are the fastest growing segment of the beverage industry, and their marketing is often geared toward children and adolescents. Their caffeine content can be up to five times the amount of caffeine in one cup of coffee! Caffeine is also being added to water, gum, candy bars, potato chips, and oatmeal. A web site for a caffeine-containing gum makes this marketing statement:
"Each pack contains 12 pieces -- the energy/alertness boost of six coffees. Doing the math for you, a dozen packs contain a "makes-you-the-most-popular-kid-on-the block" 144 pieces of gum (72 cups of coffee). And you may be able to get Art History 101 credit by chewing Spearmint Gum. Each piece is a brilliant shiny white with green Jackson Pollock-ish speckles."
With all of these products, just imagine how easy it would be for a child to consume dangerous amounts of caffeine without anyone even realizing it. We have evidence for how much is fatal for an adult but do not know what that would be for a child.
The effect of caffeine on children's moods and behavior is another concern. In a study done by the National Institute of Mental Health, 8- to 13-year-olds who regularly consumed high doses of caffeine were judged to be more restless by teachers, and one-third were hyperactive enough to meet the criteria for attention deficit disorder with hyperactivity (ADHD). A Stanford study of fifth- and sixth-graders deprived of daily caffeine reported them as having symptoms that included trouble thinking clearly, not feeling energetic, and getting angry. These symptoms were even reported by children who typically consume 28 mg of caffeine a day. The research in this area is somewhat limited, but the studies that have been conducted are compelling enough to warrant restricting caffeine intake in children to as little as possible. If there is no nutritional need for caffeine, why take the risk and allow children to consume it?
Get the latest health and medical information delivered direct to your inbox FREE!