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Caffeine and Teens: What’s the Buzz on those Lattes?

Teens and caffeine always seem to go hand in hand these days, don’t they? Does your teen regularly head to class with a latte in hand? Does your teen “re-hydrate” after sports practice with some sort of energy drink? We’re guessing yes, since teen caffeine use has more than doubled since 1980.

But that’s not really a good thing.

How to Limit Caffeine Intake Among Teens

Dr. Candice Dye, a pediatrician at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, believes that the increase in caffeine consumption among teens is not healthy and that parents should not only encourage their teens to limit how much they ingest but also provide ways to reduce their intake.

While there’s no right age to start drinking caffeine, the longer you can wait, the better, she says. Because there are currently no guidelines on teenage caffeine consumption, aside from “as little as possible,” Dye suggests teens adhere to limits similar to those for pregnant women—which is under 200 milligrams per day. (For reference, an average diet cola has about 40 to 70 milligrams in a 12-ounce can, while some energy drinks can pack a 250-milligram buzz in a single can.) Don’t forget all the potential sources of caffeine in your child’s diet, including things like chocolate, because they can add up too.

Of course, coffee houses can often be a popular teen hangout, so suggest your child enjoy the lowest-caffeine beverage available—like a chai tea. Kids also love to look things up online often, so have them check out the nutritional information of their favorite drinks on the store’s app or website. And, if they plan to linger at a coffee house, suggest that they intersperse their various caffeinated beverages with water rather than taking advantage of too many free refills.

“The goal is a nutritious, well-balanced diet, and caffeine contributes nothing to that,” says Dye. “The best advice on teens and caffeine is to avoid making it part of your daily routine.”

Cathie Ericson

Cathie Ericson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Oregon. Read more about Cathie at cathieericsonwriter.com.