For healthy adults the guidance is clear, it is generally agreed that between 300mg-400mg of caffeine is a safe daily amount. In real terms this is equivalent to 5 shots of espresso. For children however the picture is very different.
Safe Levels Of Caffeine For Children
The reason caffeine is a concern for children is that their brains are continuing to develop. Put into the mix their need for sleep (caffeine can interfere with sleep) it is clear why we should be concerned about caffeine consumption in children. A recent study by The University Children’s Hospital in Zurich showed how important sleep is to children, a lack of it and brain development could be affected.
Children Ages 12 And Under
The advice is that children 12 and under should not be consuming caffeine at all and it should not form part of a child’s daily diet, in any form.
Children Ages 13 -18
Here the advice is where possible to limit caffeine consumption as much as possible. The guidelines are that children in this age group should not be consuming more than 100mg of caffeine a day. This is due to the need for sleep, brain development and possible unknown medical conditions. But what is 100mg of caffeine bearing in mind that caffeine is not just in coffee but is present in popular energy drinks? Well this equates to 1.3 shots of espresso, 1.25 8 fl oz red bull, .6 of a 16 fl oz can of Monster Energy drink and 3 12 fl oz cokes.
The European Food Safety Authority have also given guidance based on weight. Their advice is that in this age category 3mg of caffeine per kilogram of body weight would be safe. So a 20kg child could safely consume 60mg of caffeine. But, as with adults, children can vary greatly so caution is needed here.
Caution When Reading Guidelines to Caffeine Consumption
The advice above is based on the latest research but there is no such thing as a safe limit that suits everyone, as we all vary. Caffeine should be treated as we would treat any drug, with caution, until we understand the effect it has on our particular body.
Conditions That Would Warrant Removing Caffeine From Your Diet
These conditions include heart conditions, type 2 diabetes, pregnancy or those breastfeeding and people generally sensitive to caffeine. If you have a heart condition then because caffeine is a stimulant it increases the heart rate and blood pressure. You should look to limit your caffeine to no more than 200mg per day, but only after the advice of your doctor.
Caffeine can also impair glucose metabolism in diabetics, so they should limit their consumption to 200mg per day but again only after speaking to a doctor. For pregnant women the guidelines are 200mg of caffeine per day which equates to 2.6 shots of espresso but again always speak to a doctor or midwife.