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Children Who Drink Lots of Soda More Likely to Be Aggressive

A 64-ounce drink is displayed alongside other soft drink cup sizes n New York, May 31, 2012.
A 64-ounce drink is displayed alongside other soft drink cup sizes n New York, May 31, 2012.
Jessica Berman
A new study has found that young children who drink four or more servings of soft drinks per day are more likely to show signs of aggression than youngsters who don’t drink soda.  

Researchers asked the mothers of approximately 3,000 5-year-olds to keep track of how many servings of soft drinks their children drank per day during a two-month period and complete a checklist of their children’s behavior.

The data showed that 43 percent of the youngsters consumed at least one serving of soda each day. At the other end, 4 percent of the youngsters had four or more sodas.

Epidemiologist Shakira Suglia at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health in New York City conducted the study with colleagues from the University of Vermont and Harvard University School of Public Health. She says they found that children who consumed the most soda were more than twice as likely as those who drank no soda to display disruptive behaviors.

“For the children who consumed four or more soft drinks per day, we see an association between aggressive behaviors, attention problems and withdrawn behaviors," she said. "This is after adjusting for a number of socio-demographic factors, as well as whether the child was consuming candy and sweets, their fruit juice consumption on a typical day, as well as some other social conditions that may be occurring in the home that may be related to those behaviors as well as parenting styles and practices.”

The data were compiled as part of the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, which follows 5,000 low income mother-child pairs from birth in 20 U.S. cities.

Disruptive behaviors noted by the investigators included destroying possessions belonging to others, getting into fights and physically attacking people.  

Among adolescents, studies have found the highest sugar consumption in those who carry weapons and engage in more negative social behaviors.

Suglia says it’s not clear at this point why young children who drink a lot of soda act out in inappropriate ways.

“We can’t prove that this is a direct cause and effect relationship," she said. "Having said that, there are a lot of ingredients in soda, a lot of ingredients that have not been examined in relation to behavior."  

Shakira Suglia suggests that one of those ingredients - caffeine, which is a mild stimulant - could be causing young children to engage in disruptive behavior.

An article linking soda consumption and aggressive behavior in young children is published in The Journal of Pediatrics.

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