Caffeine's Role In Cognitive Function And Enjoyment Of Food
April 23, 2013

Examining Caffeine’s Effect On Cognitive Function, Enjoyment Of Food

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Does drinking coffee, tea, soda or energy drinks impact an individual´s cognitive performance or his or her enjoyment of certain types of foods? Those questions were examined by experts who presented their research Monday at the Experimental Biology 2013 conference in Boston, Massachusetts.

In the first study, Jennifer Temple, an assistant professor at University at Buffalo School of Public Health and Health Professions, and graduate student Adam Graczyk examined how male and female youngsters performed differently on five different tasks in response to caffeine consumption, which has reportedly increased 70 percent in children and adolescents since 1977.

They recruited a sample size of 96 children and adolescents, administered them either caffeine or placebo, and then put them through memory tests, reaction-time trials, and color-word tasks. The researchers then measured developmental and gender differences in each study participant.

Temple and Graczyk discovered that caffeine increased the number of correct answers in the memory tests, and that girls had more correct responses than boys in simple reaction time and color-word tasks. There were also differences related the menstrual cycle in the female subjects, the investigators explained.

“This is the first study in children and adolescents to report sex differences in responses to caffeine on cognitive tasks as well as different responses according to the girls' menstrual cycles,” Temple said in a statement. “It suggests that if we look at caffeine as a model for illicit drugs, men and women respond differently because of circulating steroid hormones. Moving forward, this could be helpful in developing treatments for drug addictions based on gender.”

The second study was completed by Temple and PhD student Leah Panek. The duo set out to investigate whether or not combining caffeine consumption with a flavored food would increase a person´s perception regarding how much he or she enjoyed the edible product.

They selected a novel flavored yogurt, and then set out to see whether or not people who consumed the yogurt while drinking a caffeinated beverage reported liking it more than those who consumed it with placebo. Sixty-eight men and women between the ages of 18 and 50 were recruited and randomly given a drink with either caffeine or placebo in it, and then consumed either a low energy density yogurt or a high energy density yogurt.

The flavors of the yogurt were atypical in order to avoid pre-existing taste preferences, the researchers said. The yogurt flavors selected included almond, maple, peppermint, pumpkin pie, raspberry-lemon, strawberry coconut, and savory (cumin). The participants rated and ranked each of the seven flavors over four days, and the researchers reported that yogurt enjoyment increased over time, and that those who ate the food with caffeine enjoyed more of the yogurt flavors than those who had placebo.

“Next we'd like to do the same experiment with fruits and vegetables, in order to capitalize on the fact that people already consume caffeine,” Temple said.