A study of children ranging in age from eight to seventeen was done to evaluate their biological response to caffeine. Specifically their heart rates and blood pressure were looked at before and after they drank a beverage. Some children received a specified dose of caffeine in their drink. Others were given a placebo that had no caffeine.
All children who received caffeine showed a slowed heart rate and an elevated blood pressure. According to Jennifer Temple of the University of Buffalo who led the study published in the journal Paediatrics, things changed after puberty. “…caffeine was found to affect boys and girls differently, with boys having a greater response to caffeine than girls.”
According to Temple, it isn’t clear why there is a different reaction to caffeine based on sex. As found from Temple’s interview with Live Science, “The data on the girls’ menstrual cycle does suggest that the cardiovascular response to caffeine changes along with hormonal fluctuations during menstruation.” Obviously more research needs to be done.
Additional questions remain regarding other factors including the physiologic factors of hormonal fluctuations and psychosocial factors that affect the caffeine consumption patterns particularly among teens.
Because caffeine consumption has increased by children in the age group tested, this is an especially important study. Caffeine containing foods and beverages are more readily available, including the ever popular energy drinks with their very high doses of both sugar and caffeine.
While males seem to have a greater response to caffeine consumption than females, the fact remains that they both demonstrated cardiovascular responses to the stimulation. The study doesn’t go to far as to say that caffeine is harmful to this age group, there doesn’t appear to be any great benefit to caffeine consumption either.
Parents might want to take some time to talk to their children about their caffeine consumption and the future health of their cardiovascular system. A generation or two ago, we didn’t understand that cardiovascular health needs to be addressed from birth. Now that we have a better understanding of the various factors on cardiovascular health, we need to pass this information on to our children by watching our own eating and drinking habits.
The key to balancing health against social pressures appears to be one of moderation. Having one or two caffeine containing beverages a week seems preferable to consuming caffeine and sugar instead of water.