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Risk assessment of caffeine among children and adolescents in the Nordic countries

image of Risk assessment of caffeine among children and adolescents in the Nordic countries

The first part of the report has its main focus on a hazard identification and characterisation of caffeine, with special emphasis on the effects on the central nervous system. Furthermore, there is a review of epidemiological and clinical studies on caffeine in children and adolescents. The Project Group identified exposures to caffeine associated with tolerance development with withdrawal symptoms and anxiety and jitteriness in children and adolescents. The second part of the report gives an overview of caffeine intakes among children and adolescents in the Nordic countries. Because access to detailed data varied among the Nordic countries, the main focus is on intake of soft drinks. Caffeine-containing soft drinks are the main source of caffeine in children and adolescents. In the risk characterisation part the Project Group compared current intakes of caffeine with exposure associated with adverse/unwanted effects. Many Nordic teenagers have an intake of caffeine that can be associated with tolerance development and withdrawal symptoms, while approximately 20 % of the teenagers might be exposed to levels of caffeine inducing anxiety and jitteriness. Including other sources of caffeine such as chocolate, tea and coffee, these figures might be higher. There are large inter-individual differences in tolerance development and some reports indicate that a substantial fraction of teenagers might have a problem with controlling their caffeine intake.

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Risk characterisation of caffeine intake among children and adolescents

There has been an increase in caffeine exposure among children and adolescents the last 2–3 decades, mainly due to an increased consumption of cola drinks. The increase in consumption can partly be explained by easier availability; even schools now have cola vending machines. However, the last 7 years, the overall sales of soft drinks have stabilised or are on a decline in the Nordic countries. There are no data to reveal if this decline also encompasses the cola drink consumption among children and adolescents. It has become a fashion to drink bottled water, but in youngsters, we do not know if this is a substitution for soft drinks or tap water.

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