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
New study: How does Europe become a leading player for software and IT services?
03.04.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für System- und Innovationsforschung (ISI)
Reusable carbon nanotubes could be the water filter of the future, says RIT study
30.03.2017 | Rochester Institute of Technology
The world's highest gain high power laser amplifier - by many orders of magnitude - has been developed in research led at the University of Strathclyde.
The researchers demonstrated the feasibility of using plasma to amplify short laser pulses of picojoule-level energy up to 100 millijoules, which is a 'gain'...
Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.
Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a bacterium that colonizes by far more than half of the skin and the mucosa of adults, usually without causing infections....
Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.
The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....
An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.
We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...
Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.
Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...
24.05.2017 | Event News
23.05.2017 | Event News
22.05.2017 | Event News
29.05.2017 | Earth Sciences
29.05.2017 | Life Sciences
29.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy