(NaturalNews) More and more, kids in the United States are turning to caffeine-laced drinks, and in particular coffee drinks, including children as young as two years old, according to a newly released study.
The research, published in the journal Pediatrics, found that caffeine is the most popular "drug" among kids -- more so than pot or alcohol (and at a much younger age). The study found that the share of caffeine consumed by kids and young adults in the form of coffee, aged 2 to 22, rose to 24 percent in 2010, up from 10 percent a decade earlier.
And while soda continues to reign as the caffeine king, its share of caffeine consumption is falling. Caffeine via soda consumption among kids declined from 62 percent to 38 percent over the same period, the study found, and a lot of this is due to a couple of factors -- the increase in awareness of soda's profoundly negative health effects and the rise of alternatives to soda -- the experts say.
"Considering the nutritional profile of the typical soda and the nutritional profile of the typical cup of coffee, I say it's more trouble-some on a health-basis when kids as young as 2 years old are getting caffeine from sodas," Danielle Robertson, author of "Are You a Monster or a Rock Star? a Guide to Energy Drinks," told Natural News.
"Coffee has changed dramatically over the last 10 years in terms of the variety and availability," said Amy Branum, lead author of the report and a health statistician for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "There are a lot of drinks out there that are going to be more available and appealing to children."
Soda is on the way out
As reported by MarketWatch:
Why are more kids opting for a cup of joe? Experts say there has been a reversal in attitudes in recent years as coffee, which was previously painted as dangerous -- especially for children -- is coming to be viewed as relatively healthy. Many of the reports that linked coffee consumption to stunted growth and heart disease have been debunked, says coffee historian Mark Pendergrast, author of "Uncommon Grounds," a book on how coffee has changed over the years. Instead, recent research has shown that drinking coffee can lower the risk of liver cancer and protect against Type 2 diabetes, in addition to providing other health benefits.
Soda, on the other hand, has been outed as a health nightmare, and that includes so-called "diet" sodas, which still contain harmful substances.
In the 1960s, believe it or not, soda was perceived to be a healthier alternative to coffee, but now it is, of course, linked to high rates of obesity, hearth disease, diabetes and other problems. It has even been the subject of extreme public policy measures, such as when then-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg unsuccessfully attempted to ban the sale of soda and other sugary drinks in containers larger than 16 ounces. Nevertheless, despite his failed effort, health advocates are continuing to mount campaigns aimed at publicizing the negative health effects of soda.
The great coffee comeback
Today, Americans drink about half the coffee they did in 1946, but the beverage is clearly making a comeback. Part of the reason is packaging; what began at chains like Starbucks and Green Beans has spread throughout the food industry. Coffee has now come to be viewed as more of a delicacy by millions of Americans. They enjoy knowing how the flavor of a cup of coffee can be changed by selecting a different bean, the sea level at which the beans are grown and how they are reprocessed, according to Pendergrast.
"Coffee, through the Starbucks phenomenon and other specialty coffee shops, has gotten a better image of being hip and cool," he told MarketWatch.
Not everyone agrees that coffee is for children, however.
"Caffeine is a stimulant and can have significant effects on adults," strength coach, sports nutritionist and Houston Chronicle columnist Brandon Mentore told me. "When it comes to children a lot of care must be taken."
He said caffeine ingestion in kids "stages metabolic dysfunction and distortion before their body gets a chance to stabilize on its own. This could lead to life long struggle that can take years to correct, it can induce an autoimmune disorder, or hypersensitivity to foods and other things."
A coffee once in a while, he says, is a much better idea, especially when it comes to children.
"The truth of the matter is that doctors still don't know all of the potential health implications of young children drinking coffee," Dr. David Dragoo of Money Crashers told Natural News.
"What is known is that it can affect sleep, children may develop cavities from drinking coffee especially the specialty drinks, and it can affect bone growth," he added. "It is recommend that coffee consumption in children be limited, if not avoided, because it often replaces other much healthier drinks, such as water or milk."