Caffeinated drinks are commonly consumed throughout the World. Tea, coffee, cocoa, chocolate and soft drinks can all contain caffeine, and some caffeine containing drinks are aimed at children. Children therefore consume caffeine and concerns have been raised that this may negatively affect the behaviour, and perhaps therefore the health of the children. The trends in the caffeine intakes of children in North America have been studied by analysis of 24-hour dietary recall questionnaires of over 3000 children and young adults aged 2 to 19 years1. The results of this analysis showed that between 2009 and 2010 71 % of children consumed some caffeine in their diet. The median caffeine intake for children aged 2 to 5 years was 4.7 mg per day, for children aged 6 to 11 years it was 9.1 mg per day and, for 12 to 19 year olds it was 40.6 mg per day. White subjects had higher caffeine intakes compared to hispanic subjects, who in turn had higher intakes compared to black subjects.
Caffeine intake was positively associated with age, suggesting that as children grow they likely have a greater access to caffeine containing foods and drinks, perhaps because of increased social freedom. The increase in caffeine intake in the older subjects may therefore reflect a preference for these food, perhaps because of marketing strategies employed by food companies towards this age group. The researchers also noted that 10 % of all subjects consumed caffeine at a dosage that was above the recommended intake, on a given day (a level that is set at 2.5 mg of caffeine per kg of bodyweight by Health Canada). Children aged up to 12 showed a linear trend for a decrease in caffeine uptake between 2001 and 2010, but no decline was seen in those children older than 12. These results suggest that caffeine intake in North American children might be too high. As caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant the implication is that this might affect the behaviour and attention of the children in a negative way.