September 2011/Prepared Foods -- Recently announced research indicates the addition of caffeine to sugar-sweetened, carbonated beverages likely teaches young people to prefer those drinks. The researchers, with State University of New York in Buffalo, noted they suspect caffeine is added to beverages for other reasons than boosting flavor.

“Soda manufacturers claim that caffeine is added to their products to enhance flavor. However, the majority of people cannot taste the difference between caffeinated and non-caffeinated soda,” senior author Jennifer Temple said in a statement released during a meeting of the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior.

Their hypothesis was that adolescents who repeatedly drank a new and unfamiliar beverage containing caffeine would like that drink more over time. However, they further suspected those who enjoyed a similar beverage without caffeine would probably not experience a change in preference.

The researchers tested young people between 12-17 who visited the laboratory multiple times. During each visit, they sampled an unfamiliar soda drink and rated their preference for it.

According to the study’s results, participants increased their liking for the sodas with the highest levels of caffeine, but there was no change in the preferences for non-caffeinated or low-caffeinated