Teens mix up their caffeine intake

From the cappuccino students sip before first hour to the Red Bull some athletes slam before games, soda may be the least of school officials' concerns when it comes to teens' caffeine intake.

School principals say energy drinks and flavored coffees are growing in popularity among school-age children.

"It's definitely more prominent than what I remember seeing a few years ago in this building," Craig Middle School Principal Bill Toovey said. "We're seeing an increase in the number of students who come in with paper coffee cups."

Laurie Foster said it's not an increase, it's a deluge. The Kum and Go employee said cappuccinos are sold by the hundreds.

"In the morning, they come in and buy a cappuccino, an energy drink and a pack of gum," she said. "Cappuccino is definitely our big seller among the kids."

Caffeine can be addictive. People who drink caffeine every day usually need to drink that amount of caffeine just to feel normal.

Health care experts suggest children ages 7 to 9 consume no more than about 63illigrams a day -- the equivalent of 16 ounces of caffeinated soda. Kids who are ages 10 to 12 should get no more than 85illigrams a day -- 22 ounces of caffeinated soda.

Too much caffeine can cause nervousness, irritability, insomnia, headaches and dizziness,ccording to Eric Chudler of Neuroscience for Kids, a Washington State University-based Web site.

Too much caffeine can reduce attention spans and decrease a student's ability to perform tasks requiring fine motor coordination, arithmetic skills or accurate timing, Chudler said.

As with adults, kids can become dependent on caffeine -- needing more and more of it to get the same desired effects.

France has banned some energy drinks. Other European countries require warning labels on the drinks telling people about the caffeine content.

There are no rules or labeling requirements in the United States, and any kid can buy a can of Red Bull, Amp or Monster as long as he or she has enough pocket change for these pricey but alluring energy drinks.

"I can't not sell them," Foster said. "It's totally legal for them to buy."

Officially, U.S. pediatricians have not taken a uniform stand on kids' caffeine consumption. But more and more recommend kids avoid it or, at the very least, that parents restrict it in their diets.

According to the study "Caffeine: Psychological Effects, Use and Abuse," caffeine can cause pleasant effects with improved attention and concentration at lower doses.

"At high doses, the reverse may occur," the study reads.

Although research is preliminary, there is indication that what a person learns while taking a stimulant can only be recalled while taking the same stimulant.

But, new research finds caffeine revs up brain areas tied to short-term memory.

Florian Koppelstaetter, MD and a radiology fellow at Austria's Medical University Innsbruck, said research indicates caffeine boosts activity in brain regions related to attention and short-term memory.

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