The Behavioral Effects of Chronic Sugar and/or Caffeine Consumption in Adult and Adolescent Rats

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Caffeine is a psychostimulant frequently consumed by adults and children, often in combination with high levels of sugar. Chronic pretreatment with either substance can amplify both amphetamine and cocaine-induced hyperactivity in rodents. The present study sought to elucidate whether age at the time of exposure to sugar and/or caffeine alters sensitivity to an acute illicit psychostimulant (methamphetamine, [METH]) challenge in adulthood. Adult and adolescent (Postnatal Day 35 on first day of treatment) male Sprague–Dawley rats were treated for 26 days with water, caffeine (0.6 g/L), 10% sucrose or their combination. Locomotor behavior was measured on the first and last day of treatment. Following 9-days treatment free, animals were challenged with saline (1 ml/kg, i.p.) or METH (1 mg/kg, i.p.) and locomotor activity was measured. During the treatment period, adolescent rats maintained a higher caffeine (mg/kg) dose than their adult counterparts. Adding sugar to caffeine increased adolescent consumption and the highest caffeine dose consumed was measured in these animals. Drinking sugar-sweetened caffeinated water or combination did not produce cross-sensitization to METH administration in either age group. Nevertheless, the finding that regular exposure through adolescence to caffeinated sugar-sweetened beverages could increase consumption of caffeine and sugar later in life is important, as there is a large body of evidence that has linked excess consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages to a broad range of other negative physical and mental health outcomes.

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