We all know that the caffeine in regular coffee is bad for kids. It can increase their blood pressure, cause anxiety, increase the chances of acid reflux, and even cause sleep disturbances. As such, any doctor worth their salt will tell you not to give it to them. However, there is an alternative in decaf coffee. So, can kids drink decaf coffee, and if so, what should you know before giving it to them? Keep reading to find out.
Decaf is short for decaffeinated, so decaf is coffee with most of the caffeine content removed. What remains is the same taste as the coffee but with minimal side effects associated with caffeine.
One of the commonly used solvents is methylene chloride, a colorless liquid with a pleasant smell. In addition to being used to strip coffee of its caffeine content, it’s also used to strip paint, according to the National Library of Medicine Trusted Source Methylene Chloride | CH2Cl2 Methylene Chloride | CH2Cl2 | CID 6344 – structure, chemical names, physical and chemical properties, classification, patents, literature, biological activities, safety/hazards/toxicity information, supplier lists, and more pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov .
Some decaf coffee factories use ethyl acetate instead of methylene chloride as the solvent, there are up to four different decaffeination methods. At the end of the process, 97% of the caffeine content will have been removed from the beans, at which point they’re taken through the regular coffee processing methods.
These include being washed, steamed, and then roasted. It’s worth noting that roasting also helps eliminate the solvents still left on the beans since some can be harmful.
Ultimately, what you get is beans with trace amounts of caffeine. As such, it won’t have the same effect as regular coffee but retains some benefits. These include increased mental focus and a lower risk of diabetes and heart disease.
With regard to whether or not kids can drink decaf coffee, it’s worth noting that there are still trace amounts of caffeine in the resulting beverage. As such, it can be harmful to younger children. There’s also a chance that trace amounts of the chemicals used to decaffeinate the beans remain in the final product.
On the other hand, the beverage provides antioxidants and other nutrients. Also, since the kids haven’t developed a tolerance to high caffeine levels, the trace amounts left in the beverage should be enough for them to stay focused and alert.
Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide whether or not to allow your kids near decaf coffee. That said, some believe allowing your older kids to have the beverage isn’t much of an issue, especially because of the benefits highlighted below.
According to John Hopkins medicine Trusted Source 9 Reasons Why (the Right Amount of) Coffee Is Good for You A Johns Hopkins research nutritionist shares the benefits of coffee and a recipe for a healthy pumpkin spice latte smoothie. www.hopkinsmedicine.org , the benefits of drinking just the right amount of regular coffee are numerous. For instance, coffee drinkers have a lower risk of dying from a stroke, kidney disease, coronary heart disease, or diabetes.
Additionally, your body can process sugar better. Other benefits include a lower risk of colon cancer, Parkinson’s disease, heart failure, etc. But what about decaf coffee?
According to Better Health Trusted Source Caffeine - Better Health Channel Caffeine is naturally found in the leaves and fruits of some plants. www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au , caffeine is a stimulant that increases activity in both the brain and nervous system. It can also increase certain chemicals in your body and brain, e.g., cortisol and adrenaline. As such, when taken in small doses, the individual can feel more focused and refreshed.
The problem comes in when it’s taken in high doses, which results in nervousness, irritability, an abnormally fast heartbeat, and frequent visits to the toilet. With decaf coffee, the chances of ingesting too much caffeine are reduced significantly, even if you have more than one cup. Consequently, your kid will feel alert and focused without any of the downsides of too much caffeine.
As mentioned above, one of the downsides of regular coffee is that it increases the risk of acid reflux. This is because it stimulates gastric acid production in your stomach. It’s also why you suffer from heartburn and indigestion when you take too much regular coffee.
However, if the amount you’re ingesting is reasonable enough, you get just the right amount of gastric acid. This should help you digest your food quicker and more efficiently. With decaf coffee, the chances of taking in “too much” coffee are effectively eliminated.
Another effect of drinking coffee is a boosted metabolism, where your body converts food into energy much more quickly. Kids have high energy needs since they’re always moving. It can also be a tool to help them manage their weight better.
With the increase in metabolism, there are also lots of free radicals – unstable molecules that are a byproduct of your body’s normal metabolism. If left unchecked, these free radicals can cause oxidative stress, adversely affecting cell membranes, lipids, DNA, and lipoproteins.
However, antioxidants in the body help to protect the cells from such damage, and you can typically get a boost of them from a cup of decaf and even regular coffee.
While caffeine is one of the most important parts of coffee, it’s not the only component. The above-mentioned antioxidants, alongside other active substances in the beverage, typically help protect against diseases and may even reduce inflammation. Since they aren’t removed during decaffeination, they should still be in the decaf coffee.
One of the long-term effects of caffeinated coffee on the body is improved glycemic metabolism and higher insulin response. As for diabetes, it occurs when the body is resistant to the insulin hormone responsible for normal blood sugar levels. Naturally, the increased insulin response is the opposite of insulin resistance, and though the caffeine levels in decaf coffee are significantly reduced, they still make a difference in the body. This leads to a lower risk of type II diabetes.
Recent studies Trusted Source Drink these types of coffee to live longer, study says A new study found that various types of coffee — decaffeinated, ground and instant — could all protect you from heart disease and an early death. edition.cnn.com have found a correlation between caffeine intake and reduced chances of heart disease, stroke, and congestive heart failure. On the other hand, only caffeinated beverages have been found to reduce the risk of arrhythmia. That said, there is a net positive on cardiovascular health in people who drink decaf.
Research has also found that drinking coffee at midlife is associated with a lower risk of dementia. As such, drinking coffee, whether caffeinated or decaffeinated, may have the same positive effect on the drinker’s brain.
If you’re going to allow your kids to drink coffee, there are strict guidelines to follow to ensure no adverse effects on them. For instance, the caffeine content shouldn’t be more than 2.5 mg per kg of body weight in a day.
Generally, kids aged 4 to 6 can drink up to 45 mg. Those in the 7-9 and 10-12 age ranges can have 62.5 mg and 85 mg, respectively. Lastly, teens can have over 100 mg. For context, the limit for adults is about 400 mg.
While caffeine in decaf isn’t as prevalent as in regular coffee, it’s still there. As such, if you’re giving it to your kids, the best time to do that would be in the morning. Some could benefit from extra alertness and focus.
Naturally, you should remember to limit the dosage; otherwise, you may introduce factors like anxiety that have an adverse effect on their learning experience.
The easiest way to make decaf coffee for your kid is to buy decaffeinated ground coffee or pods at the store. With that, you can brew the decaf the same way you brew your other coffee beverages for adults.
Alternatively, you can buy caffeinated coffee grounds and turn the beverage into decaf yourself. As mentioned above, some decaf coffee manufacturers use water as the main solvent, and you can also do that at home.
For that, you’ll need a French press and boiling water.
So, what are the downsides of decaf coffee for kids? They include:
You’ve probably used caffeine as coffee or an energy drink to push back your bedtime as an adult. As a stimulant, it can have the same effect on children, even if it’s only a fraction of what an adult is used to.
It can also be worse on children, given that they need ten or more hours of sleep each night for proper development. That’s why it’s only recommended for early in the morning.
Notably, if the little caffeine in the decaf coffee interferes with their sleep cycles and body clock enough, you may start to notice abnormal sleeping behaviors. Examples include sleepwalking and disturbed sleep, where they wake up every few minutes.
In some cases, it may have the opposite effect instead of boosting concentration and focus. This is especially true when they exceed their caffeine limit.
Another component of coffee that remains even after the decaffeination process is chlorogenic acid. This acid increases PYY Trusted Source Peptide YY Peptide YY is a hormone made in the small intestine. It helps to reduce appetite and limit food intake. www.yourhormones.info levels in the body, which helps regulate your weight by reducing how much food you’re eating. If you’re on a weight loss journey, this may be beneficial.
However, this will present as a lack of appetite in your kid.
Caffeine also increases urine production, which might cause dehydration in your kids. As such, it’s best to keep its consumption minimal and counter this effect by increasing their water intake.
The fact that coffee has chlorogenic acid indicates how acidic the beverage is. As such, it can damage the enamel in your children’s teeth. It’s also worth noting that younger people are generally more susceptible to cavities.
Coffee without any additives is a bitter beverage. That’s why some people add sugar. Kids are more likely to add lots of sugar to sweeten the drink. They’ll likely add milk as well. This supplements their daily caloric intake making it more likely they’ll gain some unhealthy weight.
Studies have also shown caffeine typically hurts the body’s ability to absorb calcium. Children need more calcium to strengthen and grow their bones and teeth. The good news is that the change isn’t too big, and the effect can be offset by a few tablespoons of milk. That said, if left unchecked, it could be a problem.
Other potential side effects of decaf coffee include high blood pressure, fatigue, muscle breakdown, and trouble digesting food. Thankfully most of these side effects aren’t permanent and should be a thing of the past within a few days if you stop giving them decaf.
The best age to start giving them decaf coffee is about 12 when they’re approaching their teenage years. However, this may not work for everybody. If you want to start introducing it into their life earlier, it’s important to consult the family physician beforehand. That way, your doctor can instruct you on how to do it in the most harmless way possible.
If your kid insists on trying the adult beverages like coffee and decaf coffee, trying to persuade them with reason might not work. However, some substitutes may put you in the clear without the inherent risks associated with decaf. They include:
Chicory root is a great alternative because it has a similar taste. It may allow you to get one over your curious kids, and the preparation process is the same as coffee. It’s roasted, then ground and brewed. In addition to the similar taste to coffee, other perks include a healthier gut and being caffeine free.
Matcha tea is another option that can pass for coffee after it’s dried, ground, and brewed. However, it comes from the Camellia Sinensis plant native to East and Southeast Asia as well as the Indian subcontinent. The fact that it’s rich in antioxidants also doesn’t hurt.
As for golden milk, it’s a mixture of several spices that gives the brewed beverage a strong taste. It may even put your kids off trying adult beverages for a while. These spices include ginger, cinnamon, black pepper, turmeric, and maple syrup added to milk.
While rare, some children do experience allergic reactions to decaf coffee. The signs and symptoms may include a sudden itch that won’t go away and hives on their skin. The allergy may also present in different ways, so if you notice any unusual symptoms after they start taking decaf coffee, make an appointment with their doctor right away.
Naturally, you should also stop giving them the decaf until you can confirm whether or not it’s the source of the problem.
During pregnancy, it’s recommended that you consume less than 200 mg of caffeine a day. This may work with decaf coffee since most of the caffeine has already been removed. Similarly, you should avoid other caffeine sources such as energy drinks, tea, cola, etc.
While it should be safe to drink while breastfeeding, you have to remember it’s highly acidic. As such, it can affect how much iron is in the breast milk.
So, can kids drink decaf coffee or not? The quick answer is yes. It has to be in very small doses, and the best thing to do is consult your doctor on how much is safe and whether you should be introducing it to them. That said, the best time to start them on such beverages is right when they enter their teenage years. Some kids are allergic to coffee, so you should also be on the lookout for that.