Michael Harper for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
Much to NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s chagrin, soft drinks are a very popular beverage in the United States, enjoyed by men, women and children of every age.
According to a study from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and others, Americans buy more soda per capita than any other country. The same study also goes on to warn Americans that soft drinks might be associated with behavioral problems in younger children, though they’re not sure how or how closely related the two may be.
A similar correlation between soda and problems in adolescents has been observed, but according to Shakira Suglia, ScD and colleagues from the University of Vermont and Harvard School of Public Health, the same relationship has yet to be studied in young children. This new research is scheduled to be published in an upcoming issue of The Journal of Pediatrics, despite its inconclusive results.
The researchers analyzed data from an ongoing study to find a link between consumption of sugary soda drinks and aggression and withdrawal. Nearly 3,000 five-year-old children are enrolled in this study, which follows mostly single African American and Latino mothers and their children from 20 large US cities. The mother-child pairs in question were first interviewed as a part of the broader study between 1998 and 2000 and will be periodically interviewed going forward. The mothers were asked about their child’s behavior over the previous two months, including periods of aggression or withdrawal. The mothers were also asked questions about their child’s habits, such as how much soda they enjoyed or how many hours of TV they watched a day.
Shakira Suglia and her colleagues pulled the data about aggressive behavior and soft drink consumption from the rest of the pile and found that many children, about 43 percent, had at least one serving of soda a day. A much smaller number of children, about four percent, had more than four servings of soda daily.
The larger study from which Suglia and team culled their data measured aggression on a 0 − 100 scale, the higher the number, the more aggressive tendencies the child exhibited. Suglia says the study defined aggressive behavior as when children destroy their belongings or the belongings of others. The average score of the nearly 3,000 children participating in the study is below 50. When the score gets to 65 and higher, doctors normally suggest the child be evaluated for a problem.
Suglia’s team found that kids who drank no soda each day typically scored a 56 on the aggression scale. They became interested, however, in the way the numbers changed with every soda consumed each day. Kids who had one soda a day averaged a 57 on the aggression scale; two sodas a day bumped the average to 58 and three servings nudged the average to 59. Four or more sodas translated to an average aggression rating of 62.
Even after taking other factors — such as their mothers’ race, how much TV they watched and their other dietary habits — the link between aggression and soda consumption remained.
Suglia is quick to point out, of course, that this doesn’t act as conclusive proof that drinking soda directly correlates with aggressive behavior.
“It’s a little hard to interpret it. It’s not quite clinically significant,” said Suglia in an interview with Reuters.
Though they found what may be a link between the two, the researchers also say they’re not sure what’s causing the link. Two main ingredients of soda — corn syrup and caffeine — may be responsible for this behavior.