Caffeine Negatively Affects Young Children

A recent study from the U.S. has examined the effects of caffeine consumption in young children. Links between caffeine consumption and enuresis (bed-wetting), as well as sleep habits were explored. The results have shown that young children are consuming alarmingly high levels of caffeine, well beyond the range recommended for them. Caffeine consumption was also found to correlate with the hours of sleep; children with higher levels of consumption slept for fewer hours than those who consumed smaller amounts of caffeine.

Caffeine is found in several products, especially in cola drinks that are commonly consumed by children. It has been previously reported that older children consume up to 23 mg of caffeine daily. In children with complaints of bed-wetting, doctors advise that caffeine intake must be restricted because it is known to promote urine formation. According to Canadian guidelines, daily caffeine consumption should not exceed 45 mg in young children aged 4-6, 62 mg in 7-9-year-olds and 85 mg in children aged 10-12. As no recent data regarding caffeine use is available for children in the U.S., the authors of this study attempted to ascertain consumption patterns in English- and Spanish-speaking families.


  • 228 English- and Spanish-speaking families were enrolled (of which 201 families were finally selected for analysis) from a pediatric clinic and parents of 5-12-year-old children were included in the study. Children who had a medical disorder causing bed-wetting or were diagnosed with a sleep disorder were not included in this study.
  • Parents were asked to report their child’s daily consumption of foods and drinks, especially those containing caffeine. Details regarding the number of drinks and serving size were noted, to calculate daily caffeine consumption.
  • The sleep history of children and data regarding bed-wetting were also noted.



  • Daily caffeine intake was 52 mg in the children aged 5-7 and 109 mg in children aged 8-12.
  • Caffeine consumption was found to correlate with sleep. Children who consumed higher amounts of caffeine slept fewer hours.
  • No correlation was found between caffeine consumption and the number of nights of bed-wetting. Younger children, male children and children with a family history of bed-wetting were found to be more likely to have enuresis (bed-wetting).
  • Children coming from Spanish-speaking families consumed less caffeine and were less likely to wet the bed, as compared to their English-speaking counterparts. The difference, however, was minimal.

Shortcomings/next steps
The lack of relationship between bed-wetting frequency and caffeine consumption in this study may have been confounded by other factors that affect enuresis. The number of children surveyed was not large enough to draw a definite conclusion. Most importantly, the ability for parents to recall exact details has a great bearing on the results. A difference of a few cola drinks accounts for large differences in caffeine consumption. Further studies that use daily detailed accounts of food and drinks consumed may provide a better platform for studying the relationship between enuresis and caffeine use. Finally, clear, age-based guidelines and parameters for caffeine consumption in children are the need of the day.

This study is an important milestone in having provided an estimate of caffeine consumption in children, which is a wakeup call in itself. Contrary to previous data, the consumption was alarmingly high, and “well above the amount that can create physiological effects in adults.” It has also brought to light the fact that children who consume more caffeine are likely to get less sleep. The lack of effect caffeine had on enuresis in children has been a surprising discovery, though this needs further confirmation. The ethnic influence on caffeine consumption may be based on cultural differences in food. Screening for caffeine consumption may be beneficial when evaluating childhood behavioral health concerns. Based on the results of this study, parents should be aware of caffeine-containing products and the effects caffeine can have on their children.

For More Information:
Caffeine Consumption in Young Children
The Journal of Pediatrics, November 2010
By William J. Warzak, PhD; Shelby Evans, PhD
From the Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, Nebraska, USA

*FYI Living Lab Reports Are Summaries of the Original Research.
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