While the negative impacts of caffeinated soda on children’s physical health have been well documented, it remains unexplored if habitual caffeinated soda intake is associated with intellectual capacities in children. Here, we investigated the behavioral and neural correlates of daily consumption of caffeinated soda on neurocognitive functions including working memory, impulsivity, and reward processing. We rigorously tested the link between caffeinated soda intake and the neurocognitive functions by applying machine learning and hierarchical linear regression to a large dataset from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study (N=3,966; age=9-10 years). The results showed that daily consumption of caffeinated soda in children was associated with impaired working memory and higher impulsivity, and increased amygdala activation during the emotional working memory task. The machine learning results also showed hypoactivity in the nucleus accumbens and the posterior cingulate cortex during reward processing. These results findings have significant implications for public health recommendations.
Statement of Relevance Is caffeinated soda bad for children’s brain development? If so, which specific intellectual capacity is affected? It is a question that many parents and caregivers are asking but surprisingly there is no clear guideline. Caffeinated soda is the most preferred route of caffeine intake in childhood and known to have physical side effects on children, but the link between habitual drinking of caffeinated soda in children and intellectual capacities remains largely unknown. Here, by applying machine learning and hierarchical regression approaches to a large dataset, we demonstrate that daily intake of caffeinated soda is associated with neurocognitive deficits including impaired working memory and higher impulsivity. These results have significant implications for public health recommendations.