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Caffeine May Jolt Kids More Than You Think

You might want to hold off on giving children caffeinated soft drinks for a few more years, especially teenage boys. A study in the journal Pediatrics shows how caffeine affects kids' blood pressure and heart rates, and the effect is greater in teen boys.

The Pediatrics study tested 95 children of various ages. Scientists found that caffeine affected boys and girls in the same way at ages 8–10. Among teenagers, however, boys were more likely than girls to experience a greater reaction to caffeine, such as decreased blood pressure and increased heart rate. The scientists plan further testing, but they believe that hormones during puberty have something to do with the difference. They also found differences in responses to caffeine across the teenage girls' menstrual cycle: Decreases in heart rate were greater during the last phase, and elevated blood pressure was greater during the first phase of the menstrual cycle.

While soda pop has long been the main source of caffeine intake among children, the number of children and teenagers who drink coffee and caffeine-laden energy drinks has greatly increased over the past few years. The American Academy of Pediatrics found that 73 percent of children consume caffeine on any given day. This statistic is troublesome because the AAP suggests that caffeine should not be consumed by children at all. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration doesn't offer a standard on how much caffeine is or is not safe for children. Caffeine is a drug whose addictive properties are well-known. Effects of caffeince overstimulation include increased blood pressure, increased heart rate, anxiety and possible insomnia.

Soda, coffee and energy drinks aren't the only ways children can consume caffeine; learn the Hidden Sources of Caffeine for Kids.