Caffeine & Theobromine – not so stimulating stuff!

COFFEE CUPSWould you be happy regularly giving your kids coffee to drink? No? Well, treat them to chocolate and you’re actually giving them the same kind of stimulants found in every cup.

As well as containing loads of refined sugar, chocolate also contains significant quantities of caffeine and theobromine, two stimulants that activate the central nervous system, affecting both the mind and body.

Research has shown that these stimulants together have a significant effect on mood and performance in adults, at doses found in standard portions of dark and milk chocolate. It stands to reason that because kids are smaller, the effects are likely to be even greater.

Caffeine’s and theobromine’s main impact on mood and behaviour comes from their ability to change the balance of the feel-good chemicals in your brain and nervous system. At the same time, they also increase blood sugar levels due to increased amounts of adrenalin they lead the body to produce.

Consuming stimulants makes you feel the same as refined sugar – initially energised and alert. But you also feel the same as sugar when they wear off – tired, irritable and cranky. In addition feeling foggy, depressed and anxious are also common stimulant withdrawal symptoms.

GRUMPY KIDSThe other important thing about stimulants is that they are addictive. The more you consume them, the more you need them. And if you don’t get your daily ‘fix’, you can feel unable to function properly and experience some really unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.

Kids who haphazardly end up consuming stimulants may unwittingly go through alternating cycles of stimulation and withdrawal, without themselves nor their parents knowing why their behaviour is so ‘challenging’. Growing up and making sense of the world is exciting and challenging enough without exacerbating things with unnecessary stimulants!

The level of theobromine and caffeine present in chocolate varies considerably depending on the amount of cocoa solids in the product. The darker, purer and better quality the chocolate, the higher the amount of these stimulants, since they are not diluted with other ingredients like milk and our old enemy, refined sugar.


Want a good night’s sleep?

Every parent is familiar with sleep deprivation. Fortunately for most, the sleepless nights end when their little ones are still quite little. But for some, it continues considerably longer.

SLEEPNESS NIGHTSIf you wish to improve your chances of getting a good nights rest (for yourself and your kids), it’s wise to keep stimulant consumption to a minimum. Research has shown the more stimulants kids consume, the more disrupted their sleep patterns can be.

Even nursing mothers who eat pure dark chocolate (including raw chocolate) may find their little bundles happy and wide-awake several hours later. Talk about stimulating your newborn!

We all know how important sleep is for our wellbeing. But for kids it’s vital for their healthy development, growth and learning.

Refined sugar – the new tobacco? >