Daily caffeinated soda intake in children is associated with neurocognitive vulnerabilities of substance misuse and predicts higher risk of alcohol sipping in 12 months

Kwon, M., Kim, H., Yang, J., Lee, Y., Hur, J. K., Lee, T.-H., & Ahn, W.-Y. 2022. bioRxiv

Abstract

Caffeinated soda contains two addictive substances, sugar and caffeine, and is the most preferred means of caffeine consumption among children. However, it remains unexplored if habitual caffeinated soda intake in childhood is associated with a higher risk of alcohol misuse in the future. Here, we investigated the neurocognitive correlates of daily consumption of caffeinated soda and examined whether daily caffeinated soda intake is associated with a higher risk of alcohol initiation in children. By applying machine learning and hierarchical regression to a large dataset from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study, we investigated the relationship between daily caffeinated soda intake and the well-known risk factors of substance misuse, including impaired working memory, high impulsivity, and altered reward processing. We next examined whether daily caffeinated soda intake could predict greater alcohol sipping in 12 months. The results showed that daily consumption of caffeinated soda was associated with impaired working memory, higher impulsivity, and altered reward processing, with increased amygdala activation during the emotional working memory task and hypoactivity in the nucleus accumbens and posterior cingulate cortex during reward processing tasks. Daily drinkers reported higher rates of alcohol sipping compared to non-drinkers after 12 months, and daily intake of caffeinated soda mediated the relationship between the neurocognitive risk factors and future alcohol sipping. These results suggest that daily caffeinated soda intake in childhood (1) is associated with impaired neurocognitive functioning, and (2) may work as a predictor for alcohol initiation, which has significant implications for public health recommendations.