University at Buffalo

Caffeine is widely known to be a stimulant and does manage to keep us all perked up through a tiring workday in particular. Used widely by adults, it’s considered pretty normal to be addicted to caffeine.

However the strength of caffeine’s appeal among younger people who also consume plenty of soft drinks needs to be understood. At least that’s what Jennifer L. Temple, at the University at Buffalo and director of its Nutrition and Health Research Laboratory has set out to do. The expert also hopes to understand the impact of acute and chronic caffeine consumption on their blood pressure, heart rate and hand tremor. Besides, she also looks at answering whether consuming caffeinated drinks during adolescence contributes to later use of legal or illicit drugs.

These three questions are being analyzed by the expert as part of 4-year, $800,000 study funded by the National Institutes of Health. The appeal of caffeine among young people is believed to be the first study that will exhibit a gender effect in the appeal of caffeinated soda in young people.

Considering the effects of caffeine in adults, the scientists anticipate a difference in people who consume soft drinks in abundance as compared to those who consumed less. Astonishingly, the findings indicated a difference between boys and girls. Reportedly the boys in the study seemed to have worked harder and longer on a computer-based exercise to obtain caffeinated drinks.

Along with colleagues, Temple claims to have completed the second part of the study. The second analysis is considered to be a double-blind, placebo-controlled, dose-response study of the effects of caffeine on the teenagers’ blood pressure, heart rate and hand tremor. Currently, two papers are believed to being written reporting the results. The third study, getting underway will center on perhaps the the most important question in the study. It will focus on the effect of caffeine consumption during adolescence on later use of legal or illegal drugs.

According toe Temple, her basic study interest is a behavior named food reinforcement. A small study conducted in 8-12-year-olds is thought to have intrigued her to further comprehend the effects caffeine consumption in children.

“We had a lot of kids who were drinking not only soda, but coffee,” mentioned Jennifer L. Temple, PhD, a neurobiologist, assistant professor of exercise and nutrition sciences at the University at Buffalo and director of its Nutrition and Health Research Laboratory relates. “I had 12-year-old girls who said that all they had that morning was a cup of coffee. I started thinking — ‘This can’t be good.'”

The novel findings supposedly led the scientist to investigate how hard a person was likely to work to obtain a particular food, in this case, a caffeine drink. She also examined how food reinforcement could imitate drug addiction. As of now she is trying to understand the mechanisms that probably underlie such reinforcement. She also hopes to see if it can be redirected to a more healthy habit.

The recently published study that included the reinforcing value of caffeine engaged 26 boys and 23 girls aged 12-17. To better understand this criterion, the subjects who were unaware of the study testing caffeine’s reinforcement effects, were reportedly placed into groups on the basis of their reported caffeine consumption in any form.

Next, the participants underwent a baseline test that ascertained if they could taste caffeine in the study drinks when they actually couldn’t. A run-through to make them familiar with the computer-based program that they would use in the experiment was also conducted.
So that the subjects experience the study drinks, they were supposedly sent home accompanied with a week’s supply of test soda. Randomized to be caffeinated or non-caffeinated, they were instructed to drink a 32-ounce bottle every day, for seven days, and no other soda or caffeinated products. In the course of the second week, they received a week’s supply of the opposite drink.

Following this, the participants returned to a laboratory armed with two computers. One of them allowed participants to play a computer game to earn caffeinated drinks while the other enabled them to obtain non-caffeinated drinks. The drinks’ caffeine status however was blinded. As they played for a longer time, the game became more difficult.

According to Temple, they were surprised to find a difference in the reinforcing potential of caffeine between males and females. They had expected the difference to be between high and low consumers.

She commented, “These data are novel and they add to the small, but growing, body of literature on caffeine use in children and adolescents.”

The author hypothesizes that these sex differences could be based on the effect of circulating hormones during the test. Although this was not measured, it could be possible that females were less sensitive to the effects of caffeine.
The paper addressing the first question appears in the December 2009 issue of Behavioural Pharmacology.