August 20, 2013
The lead author of the study said, though, that the increased aggressiveness may not necessarily be noticeable in individual children. Also, researchers were unable to prove soda was key to causing the bad behavior, Reuters Health reported.
“It’s a little hard to interpret it. It’s not quite clinically significant,” said Shakira Suglia, of Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health in New York.
That said, previous research by some of the study’s authors unearthed ties between soda consumption and violent behavior; however, the link had not thus far been studied in younger children.
The data are compelling
Per Reuters Health:
For the new analysis, the researchers used an existing study of mothers and their 2,929 children from 20 large U.S. cities. The mothers and children were first recruited between 1998 and 2000 to be periodically interviewed and evaluated.
Mothers completed a checklist on children’s behaviors over the previous two months to measure withdrawal, attention and aggression.
“It’s things like how often does a child destroy his or her own belongings and how often do they destroy the belongings of others,” said Suglia.
The moms were also asked about how many servings of soda their kids drank per day, and about other habits they had, like watching television.
In all, some 43 percent of kids involved in the research drank at least one soda per day; 4 percent of the children drank four or more sodas daily (the consumption level of which has also been linked to childhood obesity).
The researchers based aggressive behavior on a scale between 0 and 100, with the higher scores indicating more aggressive. The lead researcher said the average score is 50, and that 65 is usually a sign when kids should be evaluated clinically for a behavioral problem.
Adds Reuters Health:
“Kids who reportedly drank no soda scored 56 on the aggression scale, on average. That compared to 57 among kids who drank one serving per day, 58 among those who drank two servings, 59 among those who drank three servings and 62 for four soda servings or more per day.”
After researchers took into account other habits that may have influenced their findings, like television watching, candy consumption and mother’s race and education level, they still discovered that drinking 2-4 more servings of soda a day resulted in higher aggression scores.
In all, children who consumed more than four servings per day were about twice as likely to 1) destroy other people’s things; and 2) get into more fights and attack people physically than kids who did not drink soda.
In addition, kids who drank soda were more withdrawn and had attention problems, the researchers said.
‘A giant first step’
Suglia noted that though the increased aggressive may not be completely noticeable in all kids, they are definitely trending towards the scale’s clinical threshold for needed treatment.
“Furthermore, if they’re drinking this much soda, it’s probably taking away from other nutritional things the child could be eating,” she said.
Despite the results, the researchers wrote that they couldn’t tell from the study what explanations were possible for the link between soda consumption and child behavioral problems. One possibility: an ingredient in soda, perhaps caffeine or high fructose corn syrup, might directly boost aggression.
“I think it’s really important and a giant first step in gathering an evidence base for what’s becoming a very widespread dietary habit. I think that’s really important,” said Janet Fischel, director of developmental and behavioral pediatrics in the department of pediatrics at Stony Brook University School of Medicine in New York, who wasn’t involved in the new study.
Results of the study were published in The Journal of Pediatrics.