We Love Caffeine. Our Kids Love Sugar. Don’t Mix The Two.


In A Rush?

  • The health benefits of caffeine are well studied – in ADULTS. Not children. It affects them differently.
  • Should kids have a Big Mac between meals? Think twice about Frappuccinos.
  • Even though energy drinks have no place in children’s diets and should probably not be sold to minors, I still love Red Bull ads.

I love Red Bull advertising and I actually watch clips from Red Bull BC ONE regularly. Additionally, during my days as a little Indian lad, I drank plenty of chai. I get why energy drinks are so appealing, Frappuccinos ARE delicious, and I’m not here to start a war against caffeine. We may drink coffee like its water but we can’t have the same blasé attitude about kids drinking blended, caffeinated concoctions.

Obligatory Anecdote:

A 4:00 pm appointment is usually a time that no child feels like being in a pediatrician’s office, but my 9-year-old patient was perfectly content, sipping on a Frappuccino.

“Ooooh – THAT looks amazing, why didn’t you bring ME one?!” – Typical, corny, doctor question.

“Hehehe I DUNNO!” (a.k.a. Shut up doctor) replied the little Starbucks connoisseur.

She was drinking a Caramel Ribbon Crunch Crème’ Frappuccino, which is way more decadent than some lame juice box.

But here’s the kicker, I didn’t think twice about her Frappuccino because fancy, caffeinated beverages are omnipresent in the hands of today’s more jubilant generation. Then I thought about it and looked up the nutrition stats. Should a 9-year-old’s after-school snack be loaded with 440 calories, 19g of total fat, 63g of carbs, and 62g of sugar? She may as well have had a Big Mac.

Do parents even realize that their kids are drinking 15 teaspoons of sugar? This is why dentists drive Porsches.

Frappuccinos with teaspoons of sugar cause tooth decay

Am I directly attacking Starbucks? God no. I live in Seattle – a vegan sniper would have my head if I even tried. All I’m saying is we, collectively, need to be more cognizant of what our children are drinking. It used to be Squeeze-Its and Capri Suns. Both of which had about 100 calories, no caffeine, and 23g of sugar per bottle or “pouch” (Remember flipping Capri Suns upside down so the stupid straw would work?).

Anything coffee-esque has diplomatic immunity in this country and can do no wrong. Literally every other day, there’s another article about the ways caffeine reduces cancer risk, enhances focus, makes you look like Cristiano Ronaldo, whatever.

New York Times: More Consensus on Coffee’s Benefits

Do I believe the studies? Sure. But most, if not all, caffeine-related research is done on A-D-U-L-T-S, who also usually drink some variation of black coffee. When’s the last time you saw a child ask for a “tall blonde with room”?

Here’s my mental road map: Caffeine is amazing   Studies prove it   Adults crave it   Marketing loves it   Frappuccinos, energy drinks, and other mystery potions are on it   Your kids stay up all night while downing more sugar than a trio of Pixie Sticks.

Kids today drink just as much caffeine as they did 10 years ago, which isn’t surprising. The issue is the new variety of sources they get their caffeine from. Blended 9-word-long-sugar-farm shakes and “Monsters” are way more appetizing than cups of Tetley tea.

But really what do kids need caffeine for!? Pokemon battles?


I’m bordering a rant here because I can’t definitively claim that small amounts of caffeine will harm children. After all, it’s in chocolate and, my nemesis, Frappuccinos, only have 15mg in them (even more reason why they’re useless. At least help me stay up all night if you’re going to make me obese). But I do think our complacency is indirectly paving the yellow-brick road to energy drinks, which can top a hundred or more milligrams per can.

Adults can safely handle up to 400mg of caffeine daily but per the American Academy of Pediatrics, daily consumption in children should not exceed 100mg.

I began asking about energy drink consumption in my clinic and found that many teens easily hit 200mg of caffeine per day, which puts them at risk for tachycardia, arrhythmias, and hypertension. And those are just the cardiovascular side effects. There are also issues with anxiety, weight gain, electrolyte imbalances, and the obvious deleterious effects on sleep.

Energy drinks boast performance enhancement and maybe teens view that as getting better grades, landing a varsity spot, or rallying at prom. Red Bull DOES give you wings alright, and they will fly you straight into increasing your risk for diabetes. Overall, in the brooding war against preservatives, chemicals, sugar and all things unnatural, we just need to pay more attention to what our kids are drinking. Unless your child is Shaun White, he/she doesn’t need wings, and Frappuccinos are basically blended Big Macs to me. 

Shaun sipping a Red Bull and Your Child is Not Shaun WhiteLand a Double McTwist 1260 in the olympics, earn a Red Bull.

What’s my point?

I get it, everyone drinks caffeine and I can’t change childhood behavior. But watch the sugar content of those blended drinks and no kid really needs energy drinks. They need sleep.