Children’s and young adults’ average caffeine consumption has increased by more than 70 per cent over the past 30 years, and an end to this rise is not in sight: the drinks industry is posting its fastest-growing sales in the segment of caffeine-laden energy drinks. Not everybody is pleased about this development. Some people are worried about possible health risks caused in young consumers by the pick-me-up.
Researchers led by Reto Huber of the University Children’s Hospital Zurich are now adding new arguments to the debate. In their recently published study conducted on rats (*), the conclusions call for caution: in pubescent rodents, caffeine intake equating to three to four cups of coffee per day in humans results in reduced deep sleep and a delayed brain development.
Peak level during puberty
Both in humans and in rats, the duration and intensity of deep sleep as well as the number of synapses or connections in the brain increase during childhood, reaching their highest level during puberty and dropping again in adult age. “The brain of children is extremely plastic due to the many connections,” says Huber. When the brain then begins to mature during puberty, a large number of these connections are lost. “This optimisation presumably occurs during deep sleep. Key synapses extend, others are reduced; this makes the network more efficient and the brain more powerful,” says Huber.
Timid instead of curious
Huber’s group of researchers administered moderate quantities of caffeine to 30-day-old rats over five days and measured the electrical current generated by their brains. The deep sleep periods, which are characterised by slow waves, were reduced from day 31 until day 42, i.e. well beyond the end of administering caffeine. Compared to the rats being given pure drinking water, the researchers found far more neural connections in the brains of the caffeine-drinking animals at the end of the study. The slower maturing process in the brain also had an impact on behaviour: rats normally become more curious with age, but the rats consuming caffeine remained timid and cautious.
The brain goes through a delicate maturing phase in puberty, during which many mental diseases can break out. And even if the rat brain differs clearly from that of humans, the many parallels in how the brains develop raise the question as to whether children’s and young adults’ caffeine intake really is harmless or whether it might be wiser to abstain from consuming the pick-me-up. “There is still need for research in this area,” says Huber.
(*) Nadja Olini, Salomé Kurth and Reto Huber (2013). The Effects of Caffeine on Sleep and Maturational Markers in the Rat. PLoS ONE 8: e72539. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0072539Contact
Abteilung Kommunikation | idw
Do microplastics harbour additional risks by colonization with harmful bacteria?
05.04.2018 | Leibniz-Institut für Ostseeforschung Warnemünde
Rutgers-led innovation could spur faster, cheaper, nano-based manufacturing
14.02.2018 | Rutgers University
University of Connecticut researchers have created a biodegradable composite made of silk fibers that can be used to repair broken load-bearing bones without the complications sometimes presented by other materials.
Repairing major load-bearing bones such as those in the leg can be a long and uncomfortable process.
Study published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces is the outcome of an international effort that included teams from Dresden and Berlin in Germany, and the US.
Scientists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) together with colleagues from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) and the University of Virginia...
Novel highly efficient and brilliant gamma-ray source: Based on model calculations, physicists of the Max PIanck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg propose a novel method for an efficient high-brilliance gamma-ray source. A giant collimated gamma-ray pulse is generated from the interaction of a dense ultra-relativistic electron beam with a thin solid conductor. Energetic gamma-rays are copiously produced as the electron beam splits into filaments while propagating across the conductor. The resulting gamma-ray energy and flux enable novel experiments in nuclear and fundamental physics.
The typical wavelength of light interacting with an object of the microcosm scales with the size of this object. For atoms, this ranges from visible light to...
Stable joint cartilage can be produced from adult stem cells originating from bone marrow. This is made possible by inducing specific molecular processes occurring during embryonic cartilage formation, as researchers from the University and University Hospital of Basel report in the scientific journal PNAS.
Certain mesenchymal stem/stromal cells from the bone marrow of adults are considered extremely promising for skeletal tissue regeneration. These adult stem...
In the fight against cancer, scientists are developing new drugs to hit tumor cells at so far unused weak points. Such a “sore spot” is the protein complex...
13.04.2018 | Event News
12.04.2018 | Event News
09.04.2018 | Event News
20.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
20.04.2018 | Interdisciplinary Research
20.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy