Decaffeinated coffee is a beverage with more than 95% of its caffeine removed. The beans have their caffeine removed before undergoing the roasting and grinding process. It’s worth noting that decaf coffee isn’t entirely caffeine-free, it contains, on average, about 3mg per cup, so the amount is small.
Decaf coffee isn’t recommended for children, but the occasional sip should be fine. There is some uncertainty about the caffeine levels in decaf coffee, as some brands might have more caffeine content than others. However, if your child is curious about your morning pick-me-up, letting them have a few sips of decaf coffee shouldn’t do much harm.
This article will discuss the age that children can start drinking coffee, the health benefits of decaf coffee, and possible downsides.
When Can Children Start Drinking Coffee?
Some young children will express an interest in trying coffee, and truthfully there is no suitable age for a child to start drinking caffeinated drinks.
Caffeine has no place in children’s nutrition, and it’s best to stick with water, milk, and natural juice (in limited amounts).
Some health experts advise that children between 1o and 12 years of age can drink coffee in small doses, but not regularly.
However, parents must keep track of the frequency and dosage to ensure their children don’t experience coffee’s side effects.
Children in this age bracket can have up to 45mg of caffeine, so that decaf coffee might be a good introduction to the drink.
Children tend to mirror the conduct of adults, and when they see their parents drinking coffee, it’s natural to want to be like them, and they want to feel part of the family.
However, since children are smaller than adults and have lower tolerance levels, caffeine can affect them more than adults. You must remember that caffeine is a drug, a safe drug but a stimulant that alters the nervous system.
We know that coffee affects adults in various ways, as we all have different tolerance levels. However, most adults can safely drink three to five cups of coffee per day, but there is no such safe guidance caffeine level for children.
For most children, coffee isn’t the problem but rather carbonated drinks. Many of them contain caffeine. However, the amount is never labeled on the can.
These beverages can have as much caffeine as they want and impact healthy growth and development in children and adolescents. Consider the following aftereffects of caffeine consumption for children:
1. Broken Sleep
Children under the age of 12 need between 10 to 12 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night; however, the caffeine in coffee can throw off their sleep cycles if they drank it even 8 hours before bedtime.
2. Poor Concentration
While caffeine boosts an adult’s concentration, the same levels of the stimulant can impede the ability to concentrate in children as it can make them hyperactive from sudden bursts of energy.
3. Reduced Appetite
Coffee and other caffeinated drinks can suppress appetite, which isn’t suitable for children as it affects their growth and development. Children require higher nourishment than adults in their growth stage.
Caffeine is a diuretic, resulting in water loss from the body. As a result, coffee consumption can cause dehydration in children, especially if they regularly drink water.
5. Tooth Damage
Coffee is acidic and can diminish teeth enamel and leave stains. In addition, as children are more prone to cavities than adults, drinking coffee can cause more oral health issues for them.
6. Added Sugar Intake
Most youngsters don’t like the strong taste of black coffee, so they may want to add sugar and milk, which will add to their calorie intake each day and put them at risk of weight gain.
7. Lower Calcium Absorption
Studies have shown that about 6mg of calcium is lost per 100mg of caffeine intake, proving detrimental for children’s bone development. Children require a high intake of calcium for healthy bone growth.
8. Caffeine Addiction
Caffeine is an addictive substance, and the lack of it can result in headaches and the ability to concentrate on any task at hand.
Children an experience caffeine withdrawal also if they are used to drinking coffee and are suddenly cut off from it. In addition, caffeine can pose numerous other risks for children.
Studies have revealed that children between 5 to 12 years of age showed higher anxiety levels than those who consumed less than 95 mg of caffeine a day. This is the equivalent of the caffeine content in one cup of instant coffee or two cola cans.
Can Children Drink Decaf Coffee?
The world of parenting comes with judgment; some people will accuse you of being a bad parent for offering a small amount of decaf coffee to your child, claiming it to contain a mind-altering drug to be avoided at all costs. We know that even the most potent coffee drink is not that mind-altering.
Hot chocolate seems like a nice treat for kids, but did you know that it contains about 5mg of caffeine which is the same amount of caffeine in a cup of decaf coffee?
There are far worse caffeinated drinks marketed at children. Some of these drinks are so caffeinated that one sip contains more stimulants than a full cup of decaf! The message is clear a few sips of decaf is ok, but limit your child’s caffeine intake.
For most children, offering a few tiny sips of decaf coffee is not a problem; they don’t become addicted, and it doesn’t change them in any way.
However, for children with an issue with it, you can offer herbal tea alternatives to still have a hot drink like their parents without the caffeine content.
You could also limit small amounts of caffeine to the weekends as a special treat. This way, you can make it a fun tradition to enjoy some decaf with your child and have an interesting chat.
Could Decaf Coffee Be Bad For You?
There is no evidence suggesting that drinking caffeinated coffee is bad for your health; in fact, it might even contain some of the health benefits of caffeinated coffee.
However, decaf coffee uses methylene chloride in the caffeine removal process, which has raised concerns within the coffee community.
Breathing in small amounts of methylene chloride ( about 200 parts per million in the air) can slow down the central nervous system for a short time, affecting a person’s hand-eye coordination and attention span.
Mild exposure to this volatile liquid can cause headaches, irritability, drowsiness, and light-headedness. The FDA already approved the use of methylene chloride in the decaffeination process once the product contains less than 10 ppm of residual methylene.
There is much research suggesting that coffee contains many compounds that are beneficial to our health. Drinking coffee often can significantly lower your risk of developing specific cancers, including:
- Skin cancer
- Prostate cancer
- Oral cancer
- Liver cancer
- Endometrial cancer
Most of the research has looked at regular coffee over the years, with only a handful of studies looking at decaf coffee specifically.
However, research has shown that decaf coffee consumption is connected with a reduced death rate from cardiovascular disease, especially in individuals who drink two to four cups a day. So, it is unclear if regular coffee’s health benefits extend to decaf.
Nonetheless, the main benefit of decaffeinated coffee is its significantly lower caffeine levels, as consuming too much caffeine can result in uncomfortable side effects, including:
- Increased heart rate
- Stomach upset
- Feeling unhappy or dysphoria
- Sleep issues
Pregnant and nursing mothers should seek the advice of their health care provider about safe caffeine levels. People with certain medical conditions should limit their caffeine consumption. Some of these conditions include:
- Bladder problems
- Cardiovascular conditions
- Digestive issues
- Sleeping difficulties
Giving your child a few sips of decaf coffee is unlikely to do much harm as decaf coffee contains very little caffeine. Of course, other beverages are better to offer your child than decaf coffee, but decaf coffee is honestly not that bad.
Most children are just curious about what their parents find interesting and want to know what the fuss is all about; so, naturally, they want to explore the taste of coffee, they are unlikely to develop an addiction.
Be judicious in the amount of coffee you give your child as caffeine isn’t ideal for youngsters; this extends to chocolate and soft drinks as they can also contain caffeine.
However, there is a growing interest in coffee among adolescents; they love coffee shops, especially big names like Starbucks and Gloria Jeans.
Children younger than ten shouldn’t drink more than half a cup of coffee now and again, so you must talk to your children about the dangers of consuming too much caffeine and help them to understand that it’s just an occasional treat.
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