Know Effects of Caffeine, it Sneaks into
Children’s Diet

In spite of numerous undesirable effects of caffeine on child health and its zero nutritional value, caffeine containing beverages have become an integral part of our teenage culture.

Caffeine even makes its way in to diets of young children; disguised as taste and flavor in various instant energy meals!

Indeed; chocolate, tea and coffee have high caffeine content. They are the only potent brain stimulants with in everyone’s reach; freely available at every food market at an easily affordable price.

An average cup of coffee provides
80-175 milligrams of caffeine,
and its content is unregulated in health drinks
marketed especially for children and teenagers.

The caffeine content in tea and chocolate is low, but the amount of intake would determine the effects.

Influences on nutrition

Caffeine consumption hampers calcium and iron absorption that dampens bone calcification and hemoglobin formation respectively. Body store of other heavy metals and essential trace elements are also similarly depleted.

These effects are further accentuated by excessive loss of water soluble B complex group of vitamins in urine and inhibitory effect on vitamin D and A.

Consequently, coffee drinkers often develop weak bones, are prone to fractures and may present with symptomatic nutritional anemia.

Effects of caffeine consumption on stamina for sports

The ability of caffeine to improve alertness, increase endurance, and reduce fatigue has lead many athletes to use caffeine as an aid to improve their sports performance.

Studies show that though it improves stamina for long term physical activity, it does not influence aerobic performance such as sprinting or high intensity exercise which need excessive sudden short bursts of energy.

However, a positive caffeine test invalidates an athlete from participating in international sports events.

Psychological effects of caffeine

Caffeine is a potent nervous system stimulant. It therefore elevates mood, improves energy output, induces wakefulness and enhances concentration. Consequently, one experiences general feelings of well-being along with positive social and professional outcome. It also decreases one’s perception of fatigue.

These psychological effects of caffeine make it the desired adjuvant in some over-the-counter medications for allergies and pain relief.

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Chronic caffeine intoxication

Chronic caffeine intoxication causes irregular heart beats, tremulousness, distorted speech and rambling flow of thoughts. Associated anxiety, irritability, emotional liability, and depression gradually lead to lapses in judgement and deterioration in work efficiency.

Inability to sleep at night and excessive sleepiness during the day gives a feeling of fatigue all day long, which further interferes with the scholastic achievements.

Effects on blood circulation

Caffeine increases the frequency and force of heart contractions. This does not directly endanger heart’s blood supply, but children with any debilitating chronic disease may succumb to work overload experienced by their heart.

Augmented heart activity increases blood flow to kidneys. This is commonly experienced as increased tendency to pass urine after a cup of tea or coffee.

Effects of caffeine on gastro-intestinal system

Caffeine relaxes the smooth muscles of oesophagus and intestines, which is most pronounced at the lower esophageal sphincter. In concert with its stimulating effect on stomach acid and digestive enzymes secretions, gastro-oesophageal reflux can result in esophagitis (heartburn).

These effects are also noted after ingestion of decaffeinated coffee, suggesting they may also be mediated by alkaloids other than caffeine.

In event of chronic intoxication, over stimulation of nerves may lead to abdominal discomfort.

Hormonal effects

Elevated stress hormones levels are documented secondary to coffee consumption. However, the agent responsible for this effect may not be caffeine, but some other ingredient, which is yet to be identified.

Fetus

Caffeine easily crosses the placenta. Unfavorable effects of caffeine on fetus are much more severe, due to its slow break down.

The ill effects on fetus are often seen if an expecting mother is habituated to chocolates, coffee, tea or other caffeine containing drinks.

Pregnant women, who consume more than 200 milligrams of caffeine (2 small cups of coffee) per day, are at risk of abortion, premature birth, intra uterine growth retardation and stillbirths.

Effects of caffeine on breast fed infants

Significant amounts of caffeine are secreted in breast milk of a mother who is habituated to caffeinated beverages and/or chocolates.

Though the content of caffeine in breast milk is very low as compared to mother’s blood caffeine levels, its absorption is very efficient and elimination is very slow in infants (1.5 to 6 days). Thus there is a cumulative effect of caffeine on breast fed infants.

Consequently, these infants experience irritability and sleeping difficulties. In more sever cases there may be tremulousness, rapid breathing or even seizures.

It is best for the mothers, who are breast feeding their infant, to refrain from caffeinated beverages and keep total caffeine intake to minimum; certainly less than 200 milligrams per day, coffee, chocolates, tea, colas and energy drinks all included.

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Acute caffeine toxicity

Acute caffeine intoxication can be life threatening. Such cases have been reported after high intake of coffee and other beverages that are rich in caffeine. Acute caffeine toxicity demands hospitalization for life supports.

In combination with paracetamol

Paracetamol, the pain relieving tablets when taken along with a lot of coffee, as usually done for sever hangovers, can result in liver damage.

Caffeine addiction

Regular caffeine consumption of more than 250 milligrams per day can lead to drug dependency, known as caffeinism.

Caffeinism is the beginning of addiction. A wide range of unpleasant physical and mental are caused by persistent high blood levels of caffeine among regular heavy energy drinks and coffee consumers.

Overstimulating effects of caffeine lead to feeling of nervousness and insomnia. These children get irritable and restless. Their ability to cope with day to day activity deteriorates and they further give in to health drinks in hope to perform better.

However, tolerance for many stimulating effects of caffeine sets in and their requirement of effective dose of caffeine keeps rising.

Tolerance and dependence leads to addiction. Jitteriness, headaches and irregular fast heart beats further torment the affected children. Now, even if they wish to stop the withdrawal symptoms make them relapse back in to the addiction.

The ability to tolerate caffeine is highly variable and so is caffeine elimination from the body. Some undesirable effects of caffeine, like anxiety, tummy upset and insomnia, can appear after ingestion of as little as 50 milligrams.

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Is caffeine all bad for health?

It would be wrong to conclude that caffeine is all bad. It has some health benefits as well.

Nevertheless, anything in excess is harmful, and so is caffeine. The Food and Drug Administration recommends per day consumption of 300 mg of caffeine per day as safe limit for adults.

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Zero Nutritional Value

Serious Health Hazards

Effects of Caffeine

Influences on Nutrition

Affects Athletes' Stamina

Psychological Effects

Chronic Intoxication

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