UCLA Campus    |   UCLA Health    |   School of Medicine Translate:
UCLA Health It Begins With U

Health Tips for Parents


Health Tips for Parents

2011 Issues

How much caffeine is okay for kids?


HT-Feb 2011-Children drinking caffeenMany parents who consider coffee unsuitable for their children are serving them sodas, cocoa and other food and beverages that contain as much caffeine as a cup of joe.

A new study in the Journal of Pediatrics confirms that as many as three out of four children consume significant amounts of caffeine, a common stimulant found in hundreds of foods and beverages.

The study found that children between the ages of 5 and 7 consumed about 52 mg per day, more than the amount found in a shot of espresso, while children ages 8 and 12 consumed 109 mg per day, the equivalent of three regular-sized cans of soda.

The study also found that children who consumed the most caffeine slept less than the nine hours per night recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “When kids sleep poorly, it manifests in subtle ways,” says Carlos Lerner, M.D., medical director for the UCLA Children’s Health Center. “They may have difficulty paying attention in school and show signs of hyperactivity or behavioral problems. Sleep deprivation and caffeine consumption can mimic signs of ADHD.”

Children who consume sodas and other sugary drinks are also at greater risk for obesity, which is associated with a host of health problems including heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, breathing problems and sleep disturbances.

“Children under 12 should have no caffeine at all,” Dr. Lerner says. “Reducing soda consumption is a high priority for pediatricians. Sodas are packed with sugar and have no nutritional value.”

Setting Limits

“Adolescents commonly have problems with sleep so adding caffeine to the mix only makes things worse,” Dr. Lerner says. “Older kids should limit caffeine to a reasonable or minimal amount and if they do choose to consume caffeinated drinks, they shouldn’t do it close to bedtime.”

Caffeine Consumption

Although the number of foods and beverages containing caffeine has multiplied significantly over the past decade, the Food and Drug Administration has not yet developed pediatric guidelines for caffeine consumption. Parents who wish to limit their children’s consumption of caffeine need to read the labels of foods and drinks they serve the children, Dr. Lerner says. Older children who want to consume caffeinated beverages should do so in moderation, he adds.


This information is provided courtesy of the pediatricians at Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA. UCLA Health pediatricians are conveniently located in your neighborhood. In addition to our Children’s Health Center in Westwood, we have offices in Brentwood, Manhattan Beach, Santa Monica and West Los Angeles. All health and health-related information contained in this publication is intended to be general in nature and should not be used as a substitute for a visit with a healthcare professional.

Add a comment

Please note that we are unable to respond to medical questions through the comments feature below. For information about health care, or if you need help in choosing a UCLA physician, please contact UCLA Physician Referral Service (PRS) at 1-800-UCLA-MD1 (1-800-825-2631) and ask to speak with a referral nurse. Thank you!

comments powered by Disqus