Caffeine intake is rising among Singaporean children and teenagers

Over the years a few trends have combined to increase caffeine intake in Singaporean children and teenagers.

Cola drinks and energy drinks have steadily gained in popularity, according to market research data. And coffee chains such as Starbucks have become a trendy place for teenagers to hang out after school.

Some teenagers turn to caffeine for the mental boost they need to cope with the stressful demands of school. As for kids in general, they just seem naturally fond of sweetened and fizzy beverages that happen to be caffeinated.

Potent stimulant with side effects

In smaller dosage, caffeine can also be found in tea and chocolate. While children don’t generally fancy hot tea, a lot of them sure do enjoy iced tea.

That can amount to a lot of caffeine at the end of the day. A potent stimulant, caffeine can have side effects, such as irritability, anxiety and insomnia. So, how much is too much?

Caffeine intake limitation

“To be safe, children and teenagers should avoid caffeine if possible”, says Ms Ong C​​​​​hengsi, Senior Dietitian at the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics​ of KK Wome​n’s and Children’s Hospital​.

Otherwise, kids should limit their daily caffeine intake to 2.5mg per kilogram of body weight, she adds, quoting Canadian guidelines that apply to children above 4 years old and teenagers. Singap​​ore’s HPB hasn’t issued recommendations regarding caffeine intake in that population.

Body weight in (KG)Maximum Caffeine Allowance
2562.5 mg
3075 mg
3587.5 mg
40100 mg
45112.5 mg

Potential side effects of caffeine

“However, these levels of caffeine can still potentially affect sleep and behaviour,” warns Ms Ong.

Furthermore, consumption of caffeine in the form of low-nutrient soda or sweetened coffee beverages may replace nutritious beverages such as calcium-rich milk, reducing the nutritional quality of a teen’s diet, says Ms Ong.

Timing of consumption is also important, as it takes up to 6 hours for caffeine effects to wear off. If your child often has problems finding sleep at night, you may want to suggest he or she eliminate soda drinks past a certain hour. Studies have shown that prolonged sleep loss can impact a kid’s ability to thrive in school.

If your children crave fizzy drinks, you could offer them clear carbonated sodas such as Sprite. These are caffeine-free.

Of course, better options include water, milk and pure fruit juice. Caffeinated or not, each extra soft drink a day gives a child a 60% greater chance of becoming obese, according to a Harvard University study.

See below for the approximate caffeine content of some popular drinks and food items:

Drink And Food ItemsServing SizeMg of Caffeine
Starbucks Brewed Coffee (Grande)16 oz (480 ml)320
Starbucks Vanilla Latte (Grande)16 oz (480 ml)150
Red Bull8.3 oz (245 ml)80 
Instant coffee, generic8 oz (240 ml)93 (range: 27 - 173)
Coke Red, regular or diet12 oz (1 can)54
Pepsi One12 oz (1 can) 54
Snapple, fruit-flavoured tea, regular or diet16 oz (480 ml)42
Nestea12 oz (1 can)26
Chocolate bar45 g9 - 30

Source: Centre for Science in the Public Interest

Ref: U11​​