Blood pressure higher in caffeine-drinking teens

May 5, 2004 in Heart Health, Nutrition for Children and Teenagers, Nutrition Topics in the News

Blood pressure higher in caffeine-drinking teens

Teens who habitually drink lots of caffeine 1 mainly from soft drinks 1 tend to have higher blood pressure than other teens, researchers from the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta report. The association between caffeine and blood pressure was most apparent in African-Americans.

The researchers noted that it is uncertain to what extent dietary changes, such as cutting back on caffeine or salt, can improve blood pressure that is too high.

More and more adolescents in the U.S. are developing high blood pressure. While caffeine is known to be a risk factor for high blood pressure, there is little research on the effect of caffeine in adolescents.

Adults may get most of their caffeine from coffee, but soft drinks are the major source of caffeine in adolescents. An estimated 68% of boys and 62% of girls aged 12 to 17 drink at least one soft drink per day.

The research team looked at the relationship between caffeine consumption and blood pressure in 159 black and white adolescents. For three days, researchers limited the amount of sodium participants could have in their diet, but allowed access to the beverages of their choice.

Participants were divided into three groups based on how much caffeine they consumed. African-Americans in the group that consumed the most caffeine 1 about 4 cans of soda per day 1 had higher systolic blood pressure (the top number in a blood pressure reading) than other adolescents, including white teens in the high-caffeine group.

The relationship between caffeine and diastolic pressure (the bottom number in a blood pressure reading) was more modest. Both black and white teens in the high-caffeine group had higher diastolic pressure than teens in the middle caffeine group.

Differences in lifestyle, such as exercise, smoking and diet, could explain why caffeine consumption was more strongly associated with blood pressure in African-Americans, according to the researchers, but they acknowledge that the reasons are uncertain.

Another possibility that African-American teens who drank lots of soft drinks may have had an increased sensitivity to caffeine compared with whites who drank even more caffeine.

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