For parents who are tempted to order their kids a can of Coca-Cola, a new study from researchers in South Korea and Virginia may dissuade them.
The study, published in the journal Substance Use & Misuse, looked at more than 2,000 American children from the ages of nine to ten and found that kids who drink caffeinated soda on a daily basis tend to be more impulsive, have poor working memory — and, most provocatively, more likely to try drinking alcohol at a younger age.
“Our findings suggest that daily consumption of caffeinated soda in children is predictive of substance use in the near future,” said Seoul National University psychology graduate student and study lead author Mina Kwon in a statement. “One possible explanation is that the substances contained in caffeinated soda (caffeine and sugar) could induce a toxicological effect on the brain, making the individual more sensitive to the reinforcing effects of harder drugs like alcohol.”
The research team examined data from the National Institutes of Health’s Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study and performed statistical analysis to see if there were any correlations between drinking caffeinated soda daily and “well-known risk factors of substance misuse: impaired working memory, high impulsivity, and aberrant reward processing.” They also examined brain activity from children who were asked to perform certain tasks to assess their working memory and impulsivity level.
Researchers found that kids who drank soda daily were “associated with neurobehavioral risk factors for substance misuse such as higher impulsivity scores and lower working memory performance.” They also found out that these children were more than twice as likely to sip alcohol in a year.
Their research suggests that caffeinated drinks is a “gateway” to alcohol. That’s a reference to the “gateway hypothesis,” commonly used in the context of marijuana. The idea was that kids who dabble in light drugs are more likely to later graduate to…
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