What Does Caffeine Do Anyway?
Caffeine is a psychoactive stimulant that affects the central nervous system. It can change alertness levels and interfere with the main brain chemical that helps your body sleep.
The scary side of caffeine is the risk of overdose when consumed in high quantities. A study published in 2011 by the American Academy of Pediatrics, revealed that teens and kids under 10 experienced 46 percent of caffeine overdoses. Caffeine toxicity can cause a host of symptoms such as increased heart rate, dizziness, hallucinations, muscle twitching, insomnia, irregular heart beat and psychomotor agitation—like wringing of the hands and pacing a room.
Energy Drink Craze
Since Red Bull was first introduced in 1997, energy drink sales have soared to a whopping 12.5 billion in 2012 and it’s estimated that 66 percent of energy drink consumers are between the ages of 13 and 35. These are alarming numbers—especially when it comes to the younger population—but it’s not only the energy drink market that’s booming. There’s a new trend where manufacturers are caffeinating foods you wouldn’t even consider.
The amount of food, snacks and desserts that contain this potentially harmful stimulant is growing and includes jellybeans, gum, ice cream, popcorn and even maple syrup. Coffee chains continually roll out new drinks—loaded with caffeine—that many kids and teens are buying and craving.
As of right now, manufacturers can add caffeine to nearly anything, but this might change soon. The FDA is investigating caffeine in food products and its safety, focusing heavily on the possible risks it poses to children and teens. A 2010 survey published by the Journal of Pediatrics showed that 75 percent of child participants consumed caffeine every day. The study also reported that the average hours of sleep are declining and are now sitting below the CDC’s sleep recommendations for children.
Until caffeine is properly regulated, it’s up to parents to be aware of the potential risks and to pay attention to the foods, snacks and drinks they’re buying for their children.