Three-quarters of children aged 5 to 12 consume caffeine, which may keep them up at night, a new study published in the Journal of Pediatrics claims.

Researchers surveyed 201 parents of children aged 5 to 12 from an urban outpatient pediatric clinic. Parents reported their child’s daily diet and sleep and bed-wetting history. The amount of caffeine that children took in was much higher than those amounts that are linked to health issues in adults. 5 to 7 year-olds consumed nearly 52 milligrrams of caffeine from soft drinks per day and 8 to 12 year-olds took in nearly 109 milligrams, the equivalent of three 12-ounce cans of soda.  The study revealed that the more caffeine that the children consumed, the less they slept.

“I would suggest that parents simply be prudent and regulate the amount of caffeine their children consume,” study author William J. Warzak, PhD, a professor of psychology in the department of pediatrics at the University of Nebraska Medical in Omaha, told WebMD. “They will not be the worse for wear if their caffeine consumption is restricted.”

This raises questions on how much soda a child should drink and whether or not there should be restrictions on caffeine intake for children if so many are consuming it as a part of their daily diet.

“Most of the research into the health effects of caffeine has been with adults [and] there really is very little pertaining to children,” Warzak explained. “The FDA has not established recommended amounts of caffeine consumption in children, although the Canadian government has issued such guidelines and our respondents indicated that quite a few children push those limits.”

Avram Traum, MD, a pediatric nephrologist at MassGeneral Hospital for Children in Boston, told WebMD that caffeine consumption by children in this and other studies are “shocking, staggering, and disturbing.” He argues against the need for guidelines because he doesn’t believe children should be drinking so much soda.

“There is no reason that school-aged children need caffeine. Period,” he said. In his eyes, an occasional drink of soda is okay, but it should not be a regular staple in a child’s diet.

In addition, the fact that caffeine keeps the children up at night affects their school performance and is linked to childhood obesity, one doctor claims.

“Sodas are junk food and have no nutritional value,” Charles Shubin, MD, director of pediatrics at Mercy FamilyCare, a division of Family Health Centers of Baltimore, said. “Sleep debt catches up and kids will fall asleep in school and not do their schoolwork.”


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