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Soda Steps Aside: Coffee and Energy Drinks New Caffeine Culprits

When former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg tried to ban sodas in sizes over 16-oz. in the city, he was met with backlash both local and widespread, and it didn’t hold up under the scrutiny of the state’s Supreme Court. His goal was to enhance the city’s health by going after what he thought was the top offender. But a new study published in Pediatrics shows that soda might not be the health industry’s primary caffeinated enemy any longer.

Indeed, caffeine remains dangerous for children and teens when consumed in large amounts. Researchers wanted to find out how American children and adolescents consumed their caffeine in the past 10 years. And what that found might be a surprise to folks like former Mayor Bloomberg. Kids weren’t getting their caffeine from soda as commonly as in the past; today, caffeine culprits are energy drinks and coffee.

Researchers assessed trends and demographic differences in mean caffeine intake among children and adolescents using the 24-hour dietary recall data from the 1999-2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). They also aimed to discover the proportion of caffeine consumption attributable to different beverages, including soda, energy drinks and tea.

Approximately 73 percent of children consumed caffeine on a given day. In the beginning years, soda accounted for the majority of caffeine intake (at 62 percent) but fell to 38 percent by 2010. Coffee accounted for just 10 percent of caffeine intake in 1999-2000, but increased to nearly 24 percent by 2009-2010. Energy drinks weren’t even on the radar in 1999, but by 2010, accounted for 6 percent of caffeine intake.

In the end, kids’ mean caffeine intake didn’t increase in recent years; but coffee and energy drinks represented a more widespread source, as soda declined in popularity.