[image via the New Yorker]
Of course kids are drinking coffee.
What else is left?
Soda is out—high fructose corn syrup, you know. Sports drinks are, as the British press put it, just lolly water. Ditto for juice boxes. Certainly not milk with all that lactose-intolerance going around.
Coffee it is.
And what exactly is so wrong with that?
Coffee doesn’t stunt anyone’s growth. That turned out to be a giant fallacy.
And it has health benefits, reducing the risk for Parkinson’s disease, liver cirrhosis, and gallstones. Not exactly pediatric ailments, but it can’t hurt. More intriguing is growing evidence to support years of anecdotal claims from parents that the caffeine in coffee actually calms down children with ADHD.
Gunning their little engines with caffeine.
Coffee does of course rev kids up, and it can leave them with jittery nerves and insomnia. And children are already getting plenty of caffeine from sources like soda, candy, hot chocolate, ice cream, and even cold medicine.
Tolerances and responses to caffeine differ widely among individuals, but it’s pretty safe to assume that the younger they are, the less coffee they probably should drink. The United States hasn’t developed dietary guidelines for kids and caffeine, but Health Canada recommends no more than 45 mg/day for 4 – 6 year olds; 62.5 mg/day at 7 – 9 years; and 85 mg/day for 10 – 12 year olds— compared with moderate adult intake of around 400 mg. (about 3 coffees’ worth).
The real problem isn’t even the coffee.
It’s the fat and calories of the vanilla syrup and the caramel drizzle, the steamed milk and whipped cream. It’s all the frozen, blended mochafrappacappalattaccinos that masquerade as coffee. There are coffee concoctions that hover in burger-and-fries territory in terms of fat and calories. For a child, that can add up to breakfast, lunch, and dinner all in a single to-go cup. And there aren’t many kids who take it black.
Best is to watch the sugar and keep a tally of caffeine from all sources.
And at four bucks a pop for a fancy latté drink, no one should be in a hurry to cultivate their kid’s coffee habit.