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More education needed for teens about consuming caffeine

More education needed for teens about consuming caffeine
April 12, 2016
Drinking caffeine is becoming more common with teens and a new Canadian study points to confusion among high school students in grades 9-12. Teens are aware of the types of caffeinated drinks and their negative health effects but they don’t know about other aspects of caffeine and how much caffeine is safe to drink1. Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist and mom of 3, Lucia Weiler has the following key tips that teens and parents should know about caffeine.
All about caffeine 
  • Caffeine is found naturally in coffee, tea, chocolate and certain flavours (e.g. those derived from kola and guarana), and may be added to carbonated soft drinks and energy drinks.
  • Caffeine can boost alertness for short periods of time and can cause increased urine flow.
  • Caffeine has NO calories or nutritional value and IS NOT a source of real body energy.  Energy comes from calories.
  • Too much caffeine can cause headaches, irritability, nervousness and rapid heart rate.
How much caffeine is safe to drink?2 
  • Children’s caffeine limits are 2.5 mg caffeine/kg of body weight/day. Based on average body weight of children this  works out to be a daily caffeine intake of NO MORE than:
    • 45 mg   aged 4-6 years
    • 62.5 mg aged 7-9 years
    • 85 mg aged 10-12 years
Check out the caffeine meter below to see what this means for your child.
  • Teens (13-19 years) should also limit their daily caffeine intake to no more than 2.5 mg of caffeine per kilogram of body weight. For example if a teen weighs 54 kg (120 lbs) then the maximum safe caffeine intake a day is about 135mg (54 kg x 2.5 mg/kg). This is about one cup (250ml) of coffee or 3 cups of tea.
  • Healthy adults should have no more than 400 mg caffeine/day. This is about the amount found in three cups (250ml or 8 oz) regular coffee or 8 cups of brewed tea.
Caffeine meter 
  • 1 cup (250 ml) coffee has about 140 mg caffeine while 1 cup of tea has 2/3 less caffeine at about 45 mg per cup
  • A 355 ml can of cola has about 40 mg caffeine while 1 cup (250 ml) of cola has about 30 mg caffeine
  • The amount of caffeine in energy drinks varies from that found in a weak cup of coffee (90 mg) to much higher levels. This means that one or two energy drinks can easily be over the safe caffeine limits for teens. Examples of Energy Drinks include Red Bull, AMP Energy, Monster, Rockstar, 5 Hour Energy etc. For more information on Energy Drinks read the labels and visit Health Canada’s website on caffeinated Energy Drinks
  • Sports drinks (ex. Gatorade, Powerade) do NOT contain caffeine. Herbal teas, decaffeinated drinks are caffeine free.

** Lucia Weiler is a Registered Dietitian who specializes in communication, marketing, education and regulatory affairs related to food and beverages.  As principal of Weiler Nutrition Communications Inc., Lucia provides expert services in nutrition trends, media, food science and labelling compliance.  Lucia is an engaging speaker and writer who translates up to date scientific knowledge to doable, relevant recommendations that motivates others. As the Co-Founder of Nutrition for NON-Nutritionists,TM and Faculty at Humber College School of Hospitality, Recreation and Tourism she teaches nutrition, food safety and professional development. For more insightful nutrition tips visit www.weilernutrition.com or follow on Twitter/Instagram @LuciaWeilerRD


1. Turton P, et al. (2016) More education needed for adolescents consuming caffeine; J Nutr Educ Behaviour
2. Dietitians of Canada (2013) What is caffeine? Is it bad for my health? http://www.dietitians.ca/Downloads/Factsheets/What-is-caffeine.aspx

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