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Influence of caffeine on the liking of novel-flavored soda in adolescents

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Abstract

Background

Soda manufacturers claim that caffeine is added to soda as a flavor enhancer, but many researchers have speculated that caffeine is added to increase the hedonic and reinforcing properties of the soda. Studies in adults have demonstrated that caffeine can condition flavor preferences when added to novel-flavored beverages.

Objectives

The purpose of this study was to test the hypothesis that caffeine added to novel-flavored drinks would increase liking and preference in adolescents.

Methods

Adolescents (n = 99) between the ages of 12 and 17 rated and ranked seven novel soda drinks. They were then randomly assigned to consume one of these beverages paired with either caffeine (1 or 2 mg/kg) or placebo over four consecutive days and rate liking. On the final visit, participants retasted the seven beverages and provided hedonic ratings and rankings.

Results

Participants in the 2-mg/kg caffeine group increased the liking of the beverage over the exposure period after an initial decrease, but there was no change in liking for those in the placebo group or in the 1-mg/kg group. The increase in liking in the 2-mg/kg group was accompanied by a decrease in perceived bitterness, but no change in beverage ranking or consumption during the post-test.

Conclusions

Caffeine added to novel beverages results in a decrease in liking followed by an increase in liking with repeated exposures that may result from habituation to the bitterness of caffeine. Change in bitter perception may be the mechanism by which adolescents establish regular caffeine use.

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Acknowledgments

AMZ and JLT were involved in the development of the research plan, study oversight, and writing; AG, AB, SO, and YS were all involved in the data collection, data entry, and quality control, and JLT has primary responsibility for the final content. All authors have read and approved the final manuscript. The authors thank Leah Scarborough for preparation of the caffeine and placebo. None of the authors have conflicts of interest to report.

Funding

This study was supported by funding from NIDA to JLT (KO1 DA021759-01). None of the authors have any conflicts of interest to report.

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Correspondence to Jennifer L. Temple.

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Temple, J.L., Ziegler, A.M., Graczyk, A. et al. Influence of caffeine on the liking of novel-flavored soda in adolescents. Psychopharmacology 223, 37–45 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-012-2684-2

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-012-2684-2

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