By registered dietitian, nutritionist and former UCC parent Lucia Weiler
It’s common—some would say necessary—for a parent to reach for a morning coffee. But what about teens? Drinking caffeine is becoming more common with teens and a new Canadian study points to confusion among high school students in grades 9-12. Teens are aware of the types of caffeinated drinks and their negative health effects but they don’t know how much caffeine is safe to drink, according to a new study in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behaviour.
Here are some key tips that teens and parents should know about caffeine.
Caffeine is found naturally in coffee, tea and chocolate and may be added to carbonated soft drinks and energy drinks. It can boost alertness for short periods of time and can cause increased urine flow. Caffeine has no calories or nutritional value and, while it may feel otherwise, not a source of real body energy. (Energy comes from calories.) Too much caffeine can cause headaches, irritability, nervousness and rapid heart rate.
So how much caffeine is safe to drink? Teens (13-19 years) should limit their daily caffeine intake to no more than 2.5 mg of caffeine per kilogram of body weight, according to the Dietitians of Canada. So, if a teen boy weighs 54 kg (120 lbs) then the maximum safe caffeine intake a day is about one cup (250ml or 135 mg) of coffee or three cups of tea. (Healthy adults should have no more than 400 mg caffeine a day. That’s three cups (250ml or 8 oz) of regular coffee or eight cups of brewed tea.
Here’s a handy chart on the left to ensure you stay in the safe zone: