By Jim Leffman
Energy drinks are a gateway to booze for youngsters, a shocking study reveals.
Kids aged nine or 10 who guzzle the caffeinated soda are twice as likely to try alcohol within a year, experts claim.
The researchers from Seoul National University in Korea looked at data from 2,000 US children.
Those who said they drank caffeinated soda daily doubled their chances of sipping alcohol within a year.
It is the first study on children so young after one on teens found that those regularly drinking energy drinks were five times more likely to use alcohol or dope within two years.
The team also was trying to get a better understanding of the relationship between downing energy drinks drinking and well-known risk factors of substance abuse such as reduced working memory and increased impulsivity.
The results, published in the journal Substance Use & Misuse, showed that both high impulsivity and low working memory were significantly associated with daily caffeinated soda consumption.
Each of the findings took into consideration other factors such as family history of drug use and low parental education.
Lead author Mina Kwon, from the Department of Psychology, Seoul National University, explains: “Our findings suggest that daily consumption of caffeinated soda in children is predictive of substance use in the near future.
“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.”
Children who regularly drank energy drinks also showed distinct brain activity compared to their non-drinking peers, more commonly found in those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and with substance use disorders.
As well as it being a gateway drink, another theory known as the ‘common liability hypothesis’ is that kids who already have a lack of impulse will seek out these drinks before moving on to booze or drugs.
Professor Woo-Young Ahn, who is the Director of the Computational Clinical Science Laboratory at Seoul National University said: “Frequently consuming caffeinated soda could indicate a higher risk of initiating substance use in the future, due to the common risk factors between the two behaviors.
“Our results have important implications for public health recommendations, as our study provides novel insight into the neurobehavioral correlates of caffeinated soda consumption in children, which has rarely been evaluated.
“It’s vital, therefore, to develop evidence-based recommendations for caffeinated soda consumption in minors.
“There is no consensus on a safe dose of caffeine in children, and some children might be more vulnerable to adverse effects associated with frequent caffeine consumption than others.”
Although missing data on subjects led to limitations in the study, the team recommended future research to see if there is a pattern between the consumption of caffeinated soda among nine-to-10-year-olds and their use of other harder substances as they age.
Produced in association with SWNS Talker