551: Young Coffee

A Thousand Things to Talk About
551: Young Coffee

How old (or young) were you when you first drank coffee?

Full episode script

Coffee – or anything, really, that contains caffeine is something that was strictly off limits for me as a kid. I was told that coffee would stunt my growth… and even though I snuck a few cups here and there when I was around 9 or 10, I still ended up around 6 feet 4 inches tall. The good news is — research agrees that the growth stunting impacts of coffee aren’t really a thing.

But that’s not to say that coffee (or caffeine) don’t have an impact on kids. As Dr. Nicole Caldwell, assistant professor of pediatrics at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio told Live Science, quote:

As far as the FDA goes, there are no current guidelines for caffeine consumption. The Canadian government has some guidelines. For children aged 4-6 years, the maximum recommended intake is 45 milligrams a day — about as much caffeine as found in a 12-ounce Diet Coke. The brains of a child tend to be a little bit more sensitive to caffeine’s effects than the brains of adults. Caffeine can cause them to be hyperactive, which is obvious. But it also can make them nervous, anxious, worsen stomach problems and create sleep problems. Caffeine also constricts blood vessels. It takes 4 milligrams of caffeine per kilogram of body weight to increase blood pressure.

Those effects are enough to give anyone a second thought about taking in a large amount of caffeine as a kid… but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. As US News reported in 2017:

According to a 2014 study in the journal Pediatrics, approximately 73 percent of children consume caffeine on a given day. Most of this caffeine comes from soda. Surprisingly, caffeine consumption isn’t limited to older kids and teens. A 2015 study of Boston toddlers aged 1 to 2 years published in the Journal of Human Lactation found surprising rates of coffee consumption by these youngsters. Among 1-year-olds, 2.5 percent were drinking coffee. By the time children reached the age of 2, more than 15 percent were consuming coffee. Of these 2-year-olds, about 15 percent consumed as much as 4 ounces, or a half cup, of coffee each day.

The other 85 percent of kids, however, likely have their first cup of coffee a little later. So when did you have yours?

This script may vary from the actual episode transcript.