Did you know that there is data showing that a number of underage children have consumed caffeine from an early age?
For example, a 2015 study in the Journal of Human Lactation found that 15.2 percent of mothers in Boston, United States (US), let their babies drink coffee before they were 2 years old.
As children get older, this number increases. A review of quantitative studies from 1999–2011 in the US in the journal Advances in Nutrition, revealed that as many as 75 percent of children over 5 years used to consume caffeine regularly. The majority of the products consumed are soda drinks, but they also like coffee or coffee-based drinks.
The high rate of caffeine consumption in children is a concern for health experts. Recent studies report that children’s cognitive function is affected by caffeine consumed. This can have an impact on hindering the child’s growth and development process . The results of these findings will be discussed in full below.
1. Involve thousands of research subjects and use trusted assessment instruments
Researchers from the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the National University of Singapore , investigated the effect of caffeine intake on the development of cognitive function in children.
The study conducted by Anqi Qiu et al. it took data on 11,718 children aged 9–10 years, who had participated in a long-term research project in the US called the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study .
The large number of samples is an advantage of the research entitled ‘Caffeine intake and Cognitive Functions in Children’ , which focuses on the age stage in which children’s brain maturation and cognitive function are taking place.
Published in the journal Psychopharmacology in 2021, the study assessed seven cognitive aspects, such as:
The seven cognitive instruments were taken from the National Institutes of Health toolbox which has been massively used as a reference for measuring neurobehavior as a whole.
2. The level of daily caffeine consumption in children is related to social economic status
About two-thirds of children admit to consuming caffeinated drinks from coffee , espresso, tea, soda and energy drinks with an average intake of 13–43 mg of caffeine per day. Also, nearly 10 percent of children reported drinking three or more of these types of drinks each day.
High daily caffeine consumption was found to be related to social and demographic factors. The study revealed that children with lower levels of socioeconomic status had higher intakes of caffeine.
In addition, boys were also found to consume more caffeinated drinks than girls. Unfortunately, the higher the level of caffeine intake, the greater the impact on sleep disturbances.
Then, what is the link between caffeine and children’s cognitive function?
3. Caffeine intake is associated with decreased cognitive function
Overall, the findings of this study indicate that children who regularly consume more caffeine have poorer cognitive performance.
Increased caffeine intake is considered to be associated with lower cognitive function on vocabulary comprehension, working memory, cognitive flexibility, processing speed, and episodic memory in children.
This finding refutes previous studies suggesting that caffeine at certain levels can benefit cognitive function. Instead, this research provides new insights into the detrimental effects of caffeine intake on children’s cognitive function.
Although the effects of caffeine consumption on children’s brain development have not been studied, caffeine may alter normal brain development during critical developmental periods.
Although a causal relationship with caffeine consumption cannot be established from simple associations, this research contributes to the possibility that caffeine intake can negatively affect cognitive development in children.
4. Precautions that parents should take
Children who are accustomed to consuming caffeine from an early age tend to develop a habit of drinking caffeine excessively later in life. It is feared that it can increase the risk of chronic sleep problems to affect the process of brain development.
So, based on the results of this research, the researchers recommend parents to play an active role in taking preventive action.
Further research is also needed to explore how caffeine affects each cognitive function more specifically.
From a medical point of view, caffeine is not the nutritional intake needed by children. In fact, caffeine can have a negative impact on children’s health, including their cognitive function. So, parents are expected to be actively involved in regulating daily nutritional intake, one of which is by limiting caffeine consumption.
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