Caffeinated Drinks Preferred By Teens

It may seem obvious that teenagers like caffeine, but  you may be surprised to discover that teenagers  actually prefer the taste of caffeinated beverages to their  decaffeinated counterparts.

 In a University of Buffalo study to test the influence of  caffeine on taste, 100 adolescents ages 12-17 were  administered seven unique beverages and asked to  rank their favorites from 1-7. Subsequently, each  subject’s 4th favorite beverage was selected and    unknowingly was used throughout the next four days.

 The subjects tasted and assessed their liking of the  beverage on a scale of 0-100. The catch: half of the  subjects were given the beverage with the addition of  caffeine, while the other half were provided with the drinks without caffeine. 

As expected, taste preference for the decaffeinated beverages stayed stable throughout the four days. However, the liking for the caffeinated beverages increased 20-25% over the four days of tasting.  Author and assistant professor of exercise and nutrition science at Buffalo, Dr. Temple explains, “The association with that flavor and the feeling it gave them increased their liking just a little bit.” 

Although the study was not conclusive, it illustrated that teens enjoy caffeinated beverages based on taste, and not based on knowledge of its contents.  Additionally, the liking for caffeinated beverages goes beyond the initial tasting and increases over time. Taste preference may be strongly linked to the effects of the caffeine, resulting in positive reinforcement of the beverage.

The testers that enjoyed the caffeinated beverages may have initially preferred them because they tasted good, but their preference for the drink continued because of the subconscious relationship between consuming the beverage and feeling more energetic afterwards. Temple states, “the pairing between the flavors and the way caffeine makes them feel reinforces their propensity for drinking these drinks.” This positive reinforcement can explain the increased ranking of the caffeinated drinks over the four days of the study, whereas the decaffeinated drinks received consistent rankings.

This study sheds some light on why beverages such as soda are so popular among the younger population: they prefer the taste of drinks that contain caffeine and the effect of the caffeine makes their fondness for the drinks increase over time.

Source: Well Blog. July 15, 2011

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