*The following is excerpted from an online article posted on Medical News Today.
Teens need more information about the potential damage that results from caffeine consumption, says a new study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.
Caffeine is a drug: a readily available, widely used, legally accessible and socially acceptable psychoactive substance. Anyone, of any age, can use it, and its popularity is growing, especially among young people.
Statistics show that adolescents are the fastest-growing population of caffeine users. Studies have indicated that 83.2% of teenagers consume caffeinated beverages regularly, and at least 96% consume them occasionally.
While caffeinated energy drinks have received media attention, only 1% of caffeine consumption among adolescents comes from these drinks.
Coffee is an obvious culprit, but many teens do not realize that tea, including iced tea, and sodas can contain substantial amounts of caffeine.
The new study investigated 166 young people, of whom 42% were male and 72% were students in grades 9 and 10. The research team collected responses from 20 discussion groups and data gathered from a questionnaire.
The findings showed that 44.6% of respondents drank caffeinated beverages one to six times per week, 11.4% consumed a caffeinated beverage every day, and only 4.8% never consumed drinks containing caffeine.
Caffeinated beverages are also popular because they are "grown-up" and easy to access. For example, students can generally go from their school to a nearby store to purchase drinks. Many consume caffeine because it happens to be present in popular soft drinks.
Parental role modeling was an important factor. As parents commonly drink coffee in the morning, and many offer it to their children, it appears to be safe and acceptable.
Media and advertising, including brand image, celebrity endorsement and advertising on TV and at sports events, encourage consumption. Social norms also play a role, as adolescents either want to feel included or they are curious to try a friend's new drink.
The research revealed there was a high awareness overall of the negative health effects of caffeine and of the sources, although most respondents were unsure about the caffeine content of tea and soft drinks.
The study's senior author, Danielle S. Battram, PhD, commented that developing more comprehensive educational strategies and enhancing policies could help to discourage adolescents from consuming caffeine, thereby limiting the potential health risks.
She added, "Caffeine overconsumption and caffeine intoxication have serious health effects, even in moderate doses. With that in mind, we need to correct the misconceptions adolescents have regarding certain aspects of caffeine."
The researchers concluded that further education could help young people to make better decisions about caffeine intake.
Source: Medical News Today