Can children be addicted to caffeine?

January 4, 2010 by  
Filed under ADDICTION

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Caffeine is not only found in coffee. It is found in most cola drinks, and in high quantities in the so-called energy drinks. Thus, when kids and adolescents drink these seemingly harmless beverages, they are actually imbibing significant amounts of caffeine. And it seems that caffeine has some addictive effects on kids.

A caffeine habit is legal and socially acceptable. However, there is no age limit to caffeine addiction. Whereas many adults would openly declare being addicted to caffeine, they’d be horrified to hear that children, too, can be caffeine addicts. And its effects may be xxx in children than in adults.

Researchers at the University at Buffalo searched for answers to the following questions:

How strong is caffeine’s appeal in young people who consume an abundance of soft drinks?

What impact does acute and chronic caffeine consumption have on their blood pressure, heart rate and hand tremor?

Does consuming caffeinated drinks during adolescence contribute to later use of legal or illicit drugs?

Here are some preliminary results:

  • A lot of children as young as 8 years old are consuming high amounts of caffeine.
  • When comparing between those who usually consumed a lot of soft drinks, and those who consumed less, the results showed a significant difference between boys and girls but not between high and low consumers. The male study participants worked harder and longer on a computer-based exercise to obtain caffeinated drinks compared to the females.
  • Study participants do not “taste” caffeine in the drinks

According the researcher Dr. Jennifer Temple neurobiologist, assistant professor of exercise and nutrition sciences at the University at Buffalo:

“We had a lot of kids who were drinking not only soda, but coffee. 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 study is basically focusing on a behavior called “food reinforcement.” The results showed a difference in reinforcing potential of caffeine between males and females regardless of habitual caffeine consumption. Temple speculates that

“…these sex differences could be based on the effect of circulating hormones at the time of the test, although this was not measured, and the possibility that females are less sensitive to the effects of caffeine.”

The answers to the physiological question on the effects of caffeine heart rate and blood pressure are still being written. The third and perhaps the most important question, i.e. the caffeine-illegal drug addiction link, still remains to be answered in the ongoing study.

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