(Health Secrets Newsletter) A small study of high school students in Boston has highlighted a link between high levels of non-diet fizzy soda consumption, and violent behavior. The study which was carried out by the University of Vermont and the Harvard School of Public Health, was published in the peer-reviewed medical journal Injury Prevention, and indicated a 15% increased chance of aggressive behavior in teenagers that drank high levels of fizzy soda.
What Did the Study Show?
The study included 1878 high school students from a variety of public high schools in the Boston area, who were all aged between 14 and 18. They each completed a questionnaire that asked them to disclose how many 12oz cans of fizzy non-diet soda they had drunk in the past week. 20oz bottles were counted as two cans. These students were then split into two groups; those that drank four cans or fewer per week, and those that drank five cans or more each week.
The students were also asked to indicate whether they had been violent in the previous thirty days. Categories of violent behavior included hitting, slapping, physical fighting, kicking, pushing, or threatening someone with a weapon. Students were also asked whether they had carried a knife or gun at any point within the previous year.
Around 30% of the participants that took part in the study drank five or more 12oz cans of fizzy soda per week, putting them in the high consumption group. Aggressive or violent behavior was reported to be significantly higher in this group, for example:
- 40.3% in the high consumption group had carried a weapon compared with 26.8% in the low consumption group
- 56.7% in the high consumption group had been violent with their peers compared with 39.1% in the low consumption group
- 42.0% in the high consumption group had been violent with children in their family compared with 27.2% in the low consumption group
- 26.2% in the high consumption group had been violent with boyfriends or girlfriends compared with 16.2% in the low consumption group
Overall, the teenagers that drank five or more cans of soda per week were 9-15% more likely to show aggressive behavior, and this is a similar figure to the increased risk seen with alcohol or tobacco use.
Because this study was performed at a single point in time, it is impossible to say that one factor caused the other, and that drinking fizzy soda actually causes violent behavior, but there is clearly a link. Some experts believe that the sugar and caffeine in soda can lead to violent behavior, while others suggest that excessive soda consumption may be an indicator of low blood sugar, which can be associated with violent behavior.
Cut Down on Soda
This study is yet another reason to try to cut down on the amount of fizzy soda consumed by our teenagers. Soda is high in sugar, with very few nutrients. The empty calories in soda are likely to leave teenagers overweight while still lacking the essential nutrients they need for good health.
As well as sugar, soda contains a lot of caffeine which is an addictive diuretic, removing water from the body. People that drink a lot of soft drinks are continually thirsty and chronically dehydrated, which can have a very negative impact on health. Finally, sodas often contain phosphoric acid which can lead to a loss of bone mass and eventual osteoporosis.
The healthiest options for teenagers are water, and plenty of it, and milk. Freshly squeezed fruit juices can provide a lot of nutrients, but these should be consumed with food to reduce damage to the teeth, and shouldnâ€™t have sugar added. If your teenager loves fizzy drinks try fresh fruit juice diluted with sparkling water as a healthier alternative.
Whether sodas are actually making our teenagers more violent or not, they are certainly making them overweight, malnourished, and dehydrated. They set them on a sugar roller coaster of highs, lows and cravings that can lead to a whole host of health issues.