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Teen Health 411
Teen Health 411

Caffeine & Youth

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There is no nutritional need for caffeine, and yet it is the most popular drug in the world. Caffeine is found naturally in over 60 plants including the coffee bean, tea leaves, kola nut, and cacao pod. All over the world many people consume caffeine daily in coffee, tea, soda and chocolate, and sadly, more and more youth are picking up the bad habit, earlier.

Caffeine can work as an appetite suppressant for youth or replace nutrient-dense foods like milk. Caffeine enters the bloodstream through the stomach and small intestine and can cause stimulation 15 minutes after it is consumed. The effect of the caffeine stays with us for at least six hours, and caffeine is addictive. Not getting the caffeine you are used to can cause headaches, fatigue, and even muscle pain.

Most people use caffeine as a stimulant, primarily in the morning to increase adrenaline production and help them feel alert during the day. It is generally believed that the amount of caffeine in less than three 8-ounce cups of coffee a day does not cause any health problems, but the caffeine in six or more 8-ounce cups of coffee per day is considered excessive and can be associated with nervousness, anxiety, dizziness, insomnia, excessive urination, and in some cases, reduced fine motor coordination.

If you want to reduce your caffeine intake, cut back slowly, eliminating the equivalent of 1/2 cup of coffee a day. Be aware of the caffeine content in some popular drinks and food:
  • An average cup of coffee has about 115 mg
  • Mountain Dew has 55 mg
  • Iced tea has 70 mg
  • One ounce of dark chocolate has 20 mg

Photo credit: explode
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About the Author

Dr. Brown is a developmental psychologist specializing in adolescent health.

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