(UNDATED) - New research shows that even a small amount of caffeine may be harmful to children, especially to teenage boys.
A new study looked at the effects of caffeine on a group of kids ages eight and nine and a second group between the ages of 15 and 17.
"They looked at a certain amount of milligrams based on the body weight of the children, and the amount of caffeine equates to about two cups of coffee or one (12 ounce) can of soda," said Dr. Katherine Powell, pediatrician for St. Vincent Medical Group.
The study showed that even that low of a dose of caffeine can raise the heart rate and blood pressure of a child, sometimes to dangerous levels. More worrisome for researchers was that the effect on the heart and blood pressure seemed to be more profound among teen boys than any other group, and those leading the study weren't sure why.
"They think it might have been something to do with changes in their bodies during puberty, because when they looked at the children before puberty, the effects of caffeine were the same between the genders," Powell said. "It might have something to do with the steroid hormones or how the body gets rid of the caffeine and how it metabolizes."
The study was conducted by Jennifer Temple, an associate professor at the University of Buffalo's School of Public Health and Health Professions.
Powell worries because while soda consumption among children and teens has dropped - as it has for the general population - many young people are replacing them with coffee or energy drinks, sometimes consuming twice as much caffeine.
"Even young kids have overdosed on energy drinks, which may be in the home because the parents drink them."
She points to the recent death by heart attack of a 16-year-old girl in Arizona, whose mother blamed her death on her consumption of energy drinks.
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