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Children and adolescents among fastest growing population of caffeine users

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While it's not uncommon for an adult to grab a cup of coffee or an energy drink to help them kick-start the day, children and adolescents actually are the fastest growing population of caffeine users.

And as 21 News Healthy Living Reporter Kate Keller explains that a cause for concern for many medical professionals.

Most parents would never think of giving their kids a cup of coffee. Yet, many children consume drinks with just as much, if not even more, caffeine.

"I think what we are seeing now more with parents is the caffeinated drinks now come in different assortments," says Psycare Director Deirdre Petrich.

Most children consume caffeine from drinking pop. Although, it's found in a number of other beverages like energy drinks, which are growing in popularity.

While Canada has established daily caffeine intake guidelines for children, the United States has yet to release such recommendations.

Although, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests a limit of 100mg a day for adolescents, which is about equivalent to the amount of caffeine found in a 20 ounce bottle of Mountain Dew or an 8 ounce cup of coffee.

"There is no indication for you to give your child caffeine ever. No matter what it is," says pediatrician Dr. Gary Backner with Akron Children's Hospital

Backner says even though caffeine is naturally occuring, it provides no nutritional value. In fact, clinical counselor Dr. Deirdre Petrich says caffeine actually stimulates the central nervous system.

"Caffeine tampers with chemicals in the brain that are responsible for helping us feel calm and feel peaceful. So, not only are you being deprived of those chemicals, but caffeine is making a child more jittery and aggitated," Petrich says.

It doesn't take long for children to feel the effects of caffeine on their system. Unlike adults, children's bodies metabolize caffeine differently.

"They can get an effect after drinking a caffeinated beverage within 15 minutes. It can actually last up to six hours," says Backner. "In children they could have a rapid heart rate, they can have vomitting, severe headache. They can even have heart arythmias, high blood pressure. There is not too many things good that can happen with caffeine intake."

So instead of caffeinated beverages, which Dr. Backner says only contribute to the childhood obesity epidemic, he suggests children sticking with water, low fat milk and flavored seltzer water.

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