Drinking tea may not be usual practise for many children, but the good news is it's not going to harm your children if they do enjoy it every now and then.
A new review on caffeinated drinks in children by independent public health nutritionist and dietitian, Dr Carrie Ruxton has concluded that up to two cups of tea daily may be safely consumed by younger children, while older school aged children can consume up to three cups of tea.
Commenting on the review, Dr Catherine Hood and mum of two from the Tea Advisory Panel (TAP) notes: “Increased availability of caffeinated ‘energy’ drinks raises questions about the level of caffeine that is appropriate for children of different ages. In adults, moderate caffeine consumption has well established benefits including improvements in physical endurance, cognitive function, including alertness and vigilance with a reduced perception of fatigue.
“However, the effects of caffeine on the behaviour and physiology of children is not so well understood. In this latest systematic review, Dr Ruxton set out to evaluate the evidence from randomised controlled trials investigating the effect of caffeine on behaviour, cognition, mood, exercise performance and hydration in children.
“This systematic review evaluated six randomised controlled trials(RCTs) which looked at the effects of caffeine on cognition, behaviour and mood in children. Overall these studies suggested that caffeine improved mental performance in terms of attention.
“A total of 13 observational studies were also evaluated in the review as well as official guidance on caffeine consumption from several countries. Taken together the studies provided evidence that when consumed in moderation, caffeine is unlikely to cause harmful effects.
“The review advises that caffeine intake should be restricted to 2.5mg/kg body weight per day for children 4 years and above to maximise the potential cognitive benefits and minimise risk in relation to behaviour and sleeping patterns. This equates to up to 2 cups of tea for younger children or 2-3 cups of tea for older school age children.”
Also commenting on the study, Dr Tim Bond from the Tea Advisory Panel (TAP) adds: “Of particular to note in Dr Ruxton’s review are some of the studies regarding the health benefits of caffeine. In one randomised crossover study, 21 children took part in a baseline study and then received 2.5 mg/kg, 5.0 mg/kg caffeine or a placebo. Attention, dexterity and memory tests showed that caffeine improved performance on attention and motor task tests and children felt less sluggish.
“Another study providing children with up to 145mg caffeine/day for 13 days showed that discontinuation of caffeine led to significant reductions in reaction times for tasks that required sustained attention.
In summary, Dr Bond adds: “Tea is an example of a drink providing excellent hydration for children. Tea makes a tiny contribution to caffeine intakes compared with some caffeinated soft drinks but when consumed in moderation is likely to bring benefits associated with mood and cognition without affecting behaviour. When consumed with milk but without sugar, tea also contributes to calcium and flavonoid intakes which has got to be great news for children.”