Are soft drinks considered a “gateway drug abuse”?

Are soft drinks considered a “gateway drug abuse”?

A recent study revealed that children who drink soft drinks daily are more impulsive and have worse memory.

Experts analyzed the case of more than 2,000 American children, between the ages of 9 and 10, who were asked how often they drink drinks such as “Coca-Cola” or “Pepsi.”

They were also given a series of tasks to perform while their brain activity was recorded.

The analysis, published in the journal Substance Use & Misuse, revealed that those who drank caffeinated soft drinks every day were more impulsive and had poorer memory.

Low working memory may indicate difficulty organizing or completing a task with multiple steps, or missing details in instructions.

Children who regularly drank caffeinated soda also showed distinct brain activity compared to their peers, especially in an area called the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC).

Decreased activity in the ACC is frequently observed in children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and individuals with substance use disorders.

Meanwhile, in a working memory test, daily soda drinkers showed less activity in a brain area called the inferior frontal gyrus (IFG), which is part of the frontal lobe.

Researchers from Seoul National University also discovered that children who drank soft drinks daily were twice as likely to have tried alcohol when followed up a year later.

Lead author Mina Kwon said: “Our findings suggest that daily consumption of caffeinated soda in children predicts drug use in the near future. One possible explanation is that substances in caffeinated soda can produce a toxic effect.” "On the brain, making the individual more sensitive to the reinforcing effects of strong substances such as alcohol."

This idea is known as the “gateway hypothesis,” but the team said there is an alternative theory called the “shared responsibility hypothesis,” which says that children, who are naturally less able to regulate their impulses, are more likely to seek out and try substances like caffeine at an early age.

Then, as they get older and it becomes easier to access illicit substances, they may turn to drugs.

The team said there is an "urgent need" for more research to see if there is a pattern between the consumption of caffeinated soft drinks among children aged 9 to 10 years, and their use of other, more dangerous substances as they age.

Scientists: The monkeypox virus began spreading among humans in 2016

An international team of molecular biologists has concluded that monkeypox has been circulating since 2016, necessitating the need for ongoing global surveillance of the virus to prevent outbreaks.
The team provides evidence that the ongoing spread of monkeypox virus among humans began in 2016, long before the outbreak of the disease in 2022-2023. The results of the study in this regard were published in an article in the scientific journal Science.

The article stated: “We discovered a kind of “molecular clock” in the genome of the MPXV virus, which allowed us to determine the time when it began to spread among humans. It turned out that this pathogen had been spreading among human populations in a stable manner since 2016, and the study says that this indicates indicates the need for continuous global surveillance of monkeypox virus to prevent recurrent outbreaks.

This conclusion was reached by a team of molecular biologists led by Professor Andrew Rambo from the British University of Edinburgh while studying the distinctive mutations that appeared in the monkeypox virus genome as a result of the action of the human APOBEC3 enzyme, which is one of the main components of innate cellular immunity, which recognizes DNA molecules. Viral ribonuclease and destroy it.

The researchers explained that unsuccessful attacks of the APOBEC3 enzyme on the viral genome lead to the emergence of characteristic point mutations, which lead to the replacement of the genetic “letter” C (cytosine) with uracil (letter U). Such mutations are very common in human and past viruses, but were very rare in the genomes of animal pathogens that have recently entered humans.

Scientists took advantage of this law to study the spread history of MPXV variants that caused a widespread outbreak of monkeypox in Western countries in the years 2022-2023. Scientists counted the number of mutations associated with the APOBEC3 enzyme, and determined the rate at which they accumulate in the MPXV genome. Scientists identified 40 such changes in the RNA structure and found that they accumulate in the virus genome very slowly, that is, about six mutations per year.

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