Caf­feine might lead to prob­lems among teens

The Borneo Post - Nature and health - - Front Page - by Casey Seidenberg

What does caf­feine do to teens? I un­der­stand an iced vanilla latte tastes like dessert, a caf­feinated drink is as ac­ces­si­ble as a bot­tle of wa­ter, and it feels grown-up to be tot­ing a Star­bucks cup. But all of this caf­feine may be am­pli­fy­ing your anx­i­ety, com­pro­mis­ing tonight’s sleep, tank­ing to­mor­row’s school per­for­mance, in­hibit­ing nu­tri­ent ab­sorp­tion, de­hy­drat­ing your cells, and when mixed with al­co­hol, caus­ing real trou­ble.

Let’s look at the ev­i­dence. The power of caf­feine

Caf­feine is widely con­sid­ered a drug, a chem­i­cal that changes brain func­tion and af­fects mood, cog­ni­tion or be­hav­iour. It may be a drug that is so­cially ac­cept­able, uni­ver­sally used, even cool, but it still causes with­drawal symp­toms such as headaches, fa­tigue and a lack of at­ten­tion when re­moved from the diet.

How much is healthy?

Caf­feine is not a nu­tri­ent; you do not need it to be healthy. In fact, it can leave you lack­ing nu­tri­ents be­cause it has been shown to in­hibit cal­cium. Caf­feine is also a di­uretic, so it causes the body to re­lease wa­ter - and the more caf­feinated drinks you con­sume, the less likely you are to drink wa­ter.

The Amer­i­can Academy of Pae­di­atrics says that ado­les­cents should con­sume no more than 100 mg of caf­feine a day (less than the amount found in a Star­bucks grande latte). It also takes the po­si­tion that “stim­u­lant-con­tain­ing en­ergy drinks have no place in the di­ets of chil­dren or ado­les­cents.” The In­sti­tute of Medicine does not sup­port sell­ing caf­feinated prod­ucts to school-age chil­dren.

Caf­feine’s draw­backs

Ac­cord­ing to the Cen­tres for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion, al­most 60 per­cent of mid­dle school­ers and more than 70 per cent of high school­ers do not get enough sleep on school nights. Some of their sleep prob­lems can be at­trib­uted to caf­feine, which can re­main in the body for seven hours af­ter con­sump­tion and blocks the neu­ro­chem­i­cal that trig­gers sleepi­ness from do­ing its job. Teens who lack sleep per­form worse the next day.

Sleep is im­por­tant for teens in other ways. Ad­e­quate sleep con­trib­utes to proper growth and brain de­vel­op­ment. Dur­ing child­hood and ado­les­cence, the brain goes through a pe­riod called synap­tic prun­ing when un­nec­es­sary con­nec­tions are con­sol­i­dated; this con­sol­i­da­tion mostly hap­pens dur­ing sleep. Also, most of an ado­les­cent’s growth hor­mone is se­creted dur­ing sleep.

Caf­feine has also been shown to in­crease heart rate, cor­ti­sol, blood pressure and anx­i­ety, and to de­crease im­pulse con­trol. Af­ter an ini­tial morn­ing rush of caf­feine, you may find your­self lag­ging through class be­cause your body is crav­ing more. Taste pref­er­ences and eat­ing habits are of­ten ce­mented in child­hood and ado­les­cence, so teens, when you con­sume sweet, caf­feinated drinks such as soft drinks and lat­tes ev­ery time you feel slug­gish, you are cre­at­ing a pat­tern that may be hard to break as an adult.

Caf­feine and al­co­hol

In a re­cent study, al­most one-quar­ter of col­lege stu­dents mixed en­ergy drinks with al­co­hol. When al­co­hol, which is a de­pres­sant, is com­bined with caf­feine which is a stim­u­lant, the body stays alert longer than if drink­ing just al­co­hol. This prompts peo­ple to con­sume more al­co­hol be­cause they do not feel the de­pres­sant, sleepy ef­fect of al­co­hol, lead­ing to higher blood al­co­hol lev­els. A re­port in the Jour­nal of Caf­feine Re­search en­ti­tled “Al­co­hol and Caf­feine: The Per­fect Storm” states, “Drinkers who re­ported mix­ing al­co­hol with en­ergy drinks had a three­fold risk of be­ing legally in­tox­i­cated.” These peo­ple also tend to un­der­es­ti­mate their in­tox­i­ca­tion, which can lead to a higher oc­cur­rence of risky be­hav­iours. Emer­gency room vis­its in­volv­ing en­ergy drinks have in­creased in re­cent years. – Wash­ing­ton Post.

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