Despite debates about the benefits and harms of caffeine, coffee is not officially considered a dangerous product. Nevertheless, pediatricians advise introducing this drink into children’s diets as late as possible. We asked experts at what age children can be introduced to coffee, what products still contain caffeine, and what can replace it in the menu.
- From what age
- Is it possible for teenagers
- Caffeine limits
- Caffeine in other products
- Side effects
- How to replace coffee
Natalya Lopushanskaya, pediatrician at the European Medical Center (EMC);
Irina Maltseva, biologist, geneticist, expert at the University of Educational Medicine.
Can children drink coffee and at what age?
Sometimes teenagers start trying coffee because they imitate adults
Doctors do not recommend introducing coffee into the diet of children under five years of age, says Natalya Lopushanskaya, a pediatrician at the European Medical Center (EMC). However, according to her, there is currently no convincing data on the dangers of the drink for the child’s body. Therefore, if a child accidentally takes a couple of sips of coffee from a parent’s mug, then nothing terrible will most likely happen. It is quite possible that he will not even swallow it due to the pronounced bitter taste.
At the same time, caffeine in coffee is a stimulating substance that speeds up processes in all body systems (1). In particular, it has a stimulating effect on the nervous and cardiac systems, the doctor adds. As a result, an adult feels a surge of strength and vigor from coffee. In children, these effects may be more pronounced and potentially harmful.
Recommendations for drinking coffee for children of different ages:
- From 0 to 3 years. According to the methodological recommendations “Organization of proper nutrition for children from 1 to 3 years of age in the European Federation,” coffee should not be present in the menu of children under three years of age (2). In addition, at this time, any products containing caffeine are excluded or severely limited – cocoa, black and green tea, sweet soda and chocolate.
- From 5 to 10 years. During this period, a small amount of decaffeinated coffee is allowed in the diet, as well as small portions of cocoa and tea, which naturally contain caffeine.
- Teenagers. Drinking coffee during adolescence should not be regular, warns the pediatrician. Moreover, it cannot be considered an obligatory component of the diet. At the same time, it is difficult to control a teenager – the child is already able to try this drink himself. It is equally important to limit your consumption of other caffeinated products, such as soda and energy drinks.
Can teenagers drink coffee?
Doctors recommend starting to drink coffee regularly no earlier than 16 years old, says Natalya Lopushanskaya. But in everything it is important to maintain balance. One or two standard servings of espresso (75-100 mg of caffeine) or a drink based on it will not cause immediate harm to a fragile body, says the pediatrician. Just like an adult, a drink will help a teenager to cheer up in the morning and become more actively involved in the learning process. But you should not abuse this positive effect.
“Doctors are of the opinion that during the period of hormonal changes in the body, nutrition and regimen should be as correct as possible. Long-term consumption of coffee can cause anxiety, aggression, sleep disturbances and appetite problems in a teenager. Caffeine also negatively affects the stomach lining, and drinking coffee on an empty stomach can lead to gastritis. Therefore, it is better to postpone drinking coffee,” the expert adds.
By puberty, the receptors in the oral cavity become more “favorable” to the taste of coffee, explains Irina Maltseva, biologist, geneticist, expert at the University of Educational Medicine (UOM). She also agrees that if a teenager drinks coffee not every day, but periodically, this will not negatively affect his health.
Caffeine levels per day
The rate of coffee consumption is calculated based on the dose of caffeine that a person receives with the drink. A range of 150-400 mg per day is considered safe (3), (4). For example, a 200-gram cup of ground coffee contains about 100 mg of caffeine (5). Thus, a healthy adult can consume two to three cups of this drink per day. During pregnancy, at a young age and with chronic diseases, the dosage should be reduced or coffee should be eliminated completely.
Single consumption of caffeine in amounts above 300 mg is considered dangerous and may cause negative symptoms (6). These include anxiety, nervousness, agitation, increased urination, arrhythmia and psychomotor agitation.
Daily caffeine intake (6)
|Amount of caffeine
|Number of servings in cups
|19 years and older
|about 400 mg/day
|12–18 years old
|under 12 years old
|2.5 mg per kilogram of body weight per day
How much caffeine is in tea and other products
Caffeine is not only found in coffee
Caffeine isn’t just in coffee. It is present in many other drinks and foods, and is also added to some medications. According to Rospotrebnadzor, the main source of caffeine in the diet of adolescents is tea. It accounts for up to 62% of this substance in the diet. It is followed by coffee, sweet sodas, chocolate and energy drinks (7). On average, European teenagers consume about 250 mg of caffeine per day (not only from coffee). This, according to Rospotrebnadzor, is a high figure, although it fits into the maximum permissible dosage of 400 mg of caffeine per day.
Products containing caffeine (8), (9), (10)
Why caffeine in large quantities is not recommended for children
The key component of coffee is caffeine, and the main properties of the drink are associated with it.
High caffeine consumption—more than 5 mg/kg body weight per day—increases the risk of anxiety symptoms, says Natalya Lopushanskaya. In particular, it is excessive for a child weighing 25 kg to consume more than two cups of filter coffee per day. The most obvious symptoms of caffeine overdose, according to the doctor, include:
- sleep disturbance;
- allergic reaction;
“If you notice this in your child after an invigorating drink, it’s better to start by giving him water to drink. If symptoms do not go away, you should consult a doctor. In addition, there are categories of small patients for whom it is extremely undesirable to drink coffee. These are children with ADHD, increased excitability of the nervous system, prone to allergic reactions, with cardiovascular pathology, gastritis, diabetes and other disorders and diseases of the endocrine organs,”…