Walk down any avenue in New York City around 2:30 p.m. and you won’t have a hard time finding backpack-sporting teens with grande iced coffees in their hands. It’s almost like no one told them what they’re putting in their bodies.

Researchers from Brescia University College conducted a study recently that has helped determine which attitudes, beliefs, and factors influence caffeine consumption among adolescents. The team hopes their findings can be used to construct a set of guidelines regarding caffeine consumption that will be more relatable to younger generations, and ultimately reduce how much they drink.

According to a study published in the journal Pediatrics, around 73 percent of children consume at least some caffeine in the form of soda, tea, or coffee. And evidence suggests that kids who drink large amounts of caffeine at a young age lose sleep, hindering their brain development.

"By developing more comprehensive educational strategies and enhancing policies, it may be possible to decrease caffeine use in adolescents and mitigate the potential health risks," said study senior author Dr. Danielle S. Battram in a statement.  

Battram and her colleagues recruited 166 adolescents, mostly ninth and tenth graders, into 20 focus groups and asked them questions about their caffeine habits and their perception of caffeinated drinks. Only 4.8 percent of respondents said they never consumed a drink containing caffeine, while 11.4 percent said they had one daily. Nearly half of the participants reported drinking caffeinated beverages one to six times per week.

"Caffeine overconsumption and caffeine intoxication have serious health effects, even in moderate doses,” Battram added. “With that in mind, we need to correct the misconceptions adolescents have regarding certain aspects of caffeine.”

A high number of respondents said they knew of the negative consequences tied to drinking too much caffeine. One of the most common reasons adolescents gave for consuming it was the perceived alertness it offers, something they said could help them study longer. The researchers also found that adolescents saw drinking caffeinated beverages as a sign of maturity and that those with easy access to them were more likely to drink them regularly.

To help encourage better decision-making when it comes to caffeine consumption, Battram’s team suggests making recommended daily intake amounts easy for children to understand and offering healthier alternatives such as exercise and diet.

Source: Turton P, Piché L, Battram D. Adolescent Attitudes and Beliefs Regarding Caffeine and the Consumption of Caffeinated Beverages. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior. 2016.