December 16th, 2010
12:01 AM ET
Drinking caffeine doesn't seem to affect how often young children wet the bed according to a study in the Journal of Pediatrics. But before your child heads to the kitchen for a caffeine fix, know that the researchers recommend children drink less caffeine, not more.
Clinicians at an outpatient pediatric clinic in Nebraska asked parents of more than 200 children how often their child drank caffeinated beverages and wet the bed. About 75% of the children drank caffeine. Children aged 5 to 7 consumed about a can of soda a day while 8- to 12-year-olds drank almost three times that amount. Though caffeine is a diuretic – meaning it increases the need to urinate – children who drank it did not wet the bed more often than children who had no daily caffeine.
But the investigators are cautious about the results.
"The findings are preliminary and until they are replicated I recommend that children who have bedwetting problems are probably well advised to cut back on caffeine as the day wears on," says clinical psychologist William Warzak with the Munroe-Meyer Institute at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha.
Researchers don't really know how caffeine affects young children because most of the studies in young people have been done with teens. But medical experts do know caffeine is a stimulant and has physiological and psychological affects in teens and adults.
"Since there are really unknown effects of caffeine in young children, you should probably only have them drink caffeine in moderation. What we don't know is where to draw the line for moderation," explains Warzak.
The study also found that about a quarter of the children slept a little less when they drank caffeine but the authors caution that there may have been other factors that contributed to this finding.
"I don't think you can make a straight line cause and effect comment regarding caffeine consumption and the fact that some of these kids are sleeping less. Can that be a factor? Sure. Is it a factor? I don't know," says Warzak.
Other experts say this study shows children are drinking more than twice as much caffeine as previously reported and may serve as a wake-up call to doctors.
"Pediatricians may need to start asking parents about how much caffeine their children are drinking. Children don't need caffeine. It's a stimulant and has no nutritional value for young people," says Dr. Marcie Schneider, a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics' Committee on Nutrition. Schneider is not affiliated with the Nebraska study.
Warzak is planning a follow-up study on caffeine and bed wetting which is scheduled to begin next year.
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