Caffeine use among children and young adults has risen over the last few decades. Use of the stimulant affects boys and girls in different ways, according to a new study.
Much of this increase in use of the stimulant is driven by the increased popularity of the energy drinks and carbonated sodas.
Jennifer Temple of the Department of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences at the University at Buffalo School conducted an investigation of caffeine use among young people.
Previous research shows heart beat is decreased and blood pressure increased by the stimulant intake of children and teenagers. The study examined if responses to the drug change after puberty and if effects were tied to menstrual cycles.
Temple and her team studied 96 children, ages 8 to 17, during six visits to the laboratory. During each trip, the subjects were provided with either a caffeinated drink or a placebo. The volunteers were also asked to fill out a questionnaire asking about their use of caffeine.
Heart rate and blood pressure changes caused by caffeine changed in boys and girls after puberty, according to Temple. Effects of caffeine also changed in girls, dependent on the time of their cycle.
"We found an interaction between gender and caffeine dose, with boys having a greater response to caffeine than girls," Temple said.
Temple previously carried out a study of the effects of caffeine on adolescent boys, age 12 to 17. That study found boys experience a greater increase in blood pressure than girls.
This study was the first to tie caffeine effects to the monthly cycles of teenage girls, and to look at children as young as eight years old.
Further research into this subject could include study of whether the difference between young males and females is biological, or socially-based. It is possible the effects are driven by consumption levels, at least partially dictated by social influences.
Both genders experienced changes in their cardiovascular system.
"And while it does not suggest that caffeine is particularly harmful to children and adolescents, there is little evidence that caffeine consumption is beneficial to health in this population," Temple stated in a press release.
The first energy drink was introduced in Japan in 1960. Lipovitan-D was the first beverage marketed specifically to boost energy and concentration. Red Bull was invented in 1987 and reached the United States 10 years later. Between 2005 and 2006, popularity of the caffeinated beverages exploded, especially among young people.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse of the National Institutes of Health funded the study.
Investigation of the effects of caffeine on young people was detailed in the journal Pediatrics.