Leave it to the Brits to investigate tea and its beneficial effects on children. Apparently, not too many years ago, over 50% of kids drank tea daily. It was definitely part of their culture. Over the years however, tea has fallen out of favor while sodas have captured the attention of children everywhere. The number of children drinking tea in England these days is actually too low to measure. With soda consumption on the rise, so too is the occurrence of obesity in these tender consumers.
The statistics in the U.S are equally disturbing. According to the Center for Disease Control, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese in the year 2010. I believe high sugar beverages play a significant role in this health crisis.
What’s really fascinating, however, is that the primary reason given for restricting kids’ tea consumption is concern about caffeine. Now that’s very interesting to me. Many sodas have caffeine as well as countless other ingredients that are potentially harmful, especially when artificial ingredients are added. At its best, soda has NO nutritional value. Tea on the other hand, has been shown to have active ingredients including pholyphenols/catechins, that have been shown to have tremendous health benefits.
Fortunately, a well respected British nutritionist, Dr. Carrie Ruxton, has investigated the caffeine and kid connection and produced some very interesting news. Drum roll please . . . the caffeine found in tea actually has benefits for kids.
Dr. Ruxton is a member of the Tea Advisory Panel. Her latest tea research appeared in the Journal of Public Health Nutrition. A review of research found a number of trials showing that children score more highly on tests which measure their mental agility, attention, dexterity and memory after consuming a small amount of caffeine. Ruxton’s conclusions include there is no evidence of problems with caffeine in tea when consumption was limited to two cups of tea per day for preschoolers; two to three cups for school-aged children.
Can you imagine what might happen if kids with ADHD were taken off their prescription medications followed by trials using green tea instead? Why must we live in a culture more comfortable giving children powerful drugs rather than natural products that have stood the test of time for over 5000 years?
When we compare the amount of caffeine in “energy drinks” that teens around the globe are drinking in alarming numbers, the amount of caffeine in tea is negligible. Why are we still pointing the finger at tea when it comes to concerns about caffeine and the health of our children? What’s wrong with this picture, people?
My suggestion is to introduce your little ones to tea using 3 to 4 ounce cups. These child-sized vessels will delight children and encourage them to develop a taste for the subtle delight of green tea. Catch them before their palates get used to – and begin to demand – the highly sweetened beverages that our media bombards them with. Children will become life long tea drinkers – a gift of health that will be with them throughout their lives. The psychological comfort of a warm beverage will become a friend they can welcome and turn to whenever they need to.