It is well-known that drinking soda is highly associated with obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases risk factors, but few parents understand the negative impact of this practice on behavioral problems among children. Now, research published in The Journal of Pediatrics is shedding light on this situation.
Previous research has linked regular soda consumption – both diet and regular – to a host of adverse health outcomes, including obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, high triglycerides, elevated LDL cholesterol and kidney disease. Lesser known is the fact that regular soda consumption has been associated with aggression, depression and suicidal thoughts in adolescents.
Despite these risks the current study concluded that 43 percent of children consume a soda daily, while a small percentage – four percent – consume four or more every day.
Indeed, the consumption of sugar-sweetened soft drinks has rapidly increased over the last 30 years despite recommendations from the American Heart Association to limit the consumption of these drinks to less than three 12-ounce cans per week.
Researchers at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, University of Vermont and Harvard School of Public Health collaborated on the recent study to investigate the effect of soda consumption on younger children’s behavior. Data for the study was collected from approximately 3,000 5-year-old children enrolled in the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study – a nationally representative birth cohort following mother-child pairs from 20 large U.S. cities.
Remarkably, the researchers linked any soda consumption to aggressive behaviors even when adjusting for socioeconomic factors, maternal depression, intimate partner violence and paternal incarceration. Children consuming four or more sodas per day were the most aggressive, being twice as likely to destroy the property of others, fight and physically attack people when compared to those who don’t drink soda. The study authors also linked withdrawal behaviors and attention problems to soda consumption.
While the precise reason why soda encourages these behaviors has not been discovered, the research suggests limiting or discontinuing soda consumption among children is reasonable and warranted.
An effective way to encourage reduced soda consumption is through parents modeling this behavior. Parents attitudes towards food and beverages significantly impact children’s nutritional choices. Secondly, parents should educate their children about how soda influences their health. Lastly, parents should provide healthy alternatives like water with lemon or lime juice added – citrus essential oils can also be used, beverages sweetened with stevia or other natural sweeteners, or 100 percent fruit juice.