By Dr Cory Couillard
Soda consumption has long been associated with adverse health conditions such as obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. It has also been linked with anger, depression and suicidal thoughts in teens, but the relationship was not clear in younger children, until now.
A new study published in The Journal of Paediatrics found aggression, attention problems and withdrawal behaviour are all associated with soft drink consumption in young children.
Approximately 3,000 five-year-old children were assessed by researchers from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, University of Vermont and Harvard School of Public Health. The researchers found that 43% of these children consumed at least one soda per day.
“We found that the child’s aggressive behaviour score increased with every increase in soft drinks servings per day,” says Dr. Shakira Suglia, assistant professor of epidemiology at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.
Essentially, researchers found a dose-response relationship, meaning an increase in soda consumption equates to escalating levels of aggressive behaviour.
After adjusting for several socioeconomic factors, such as depression, researchers discovered that any form of soda consumption could be hazardous.
Children who drank four or more servings of soda per day were twice as likely to physically attack people and destroy other people’s belongings when compared to children who did not drink soda. Increased attention problems and withdrawal behaviours were other significant findings in the study.
“Caffeine has been associated with child behaviour problems, also sugar — though the scientific evidence is mixed,” Suglia said. Only these two components were examined and the effects of other highly processed ingredients remain silent.
Sodas contain other highly processed ingredients that include; carbonated water, aspartame, sodium benzoate, phosphoric or citric acid, all of which may affect childhood behaviour.
Caffeine has also been linked in studies to insufficient sleep, nervousness and jitters, impulsivity and risk-taking in children and adolescents. A study of 9-12-year-old children found that those with depression were more likely to consume caffeinated sodas.
“Another possibility is that underlying organic conditions, such as low blood glucose could lead children, both to want soda and to be aggressive or withdrawn,” say researchers.
To add insult to injury, soda has been found to produce inflammation — a major cause of chronic, long-term health conditions. It increases internal visceral fat storage, puts additional stress on blood circulation and decreases overall organ function.
Soda has also been shown to spike blood sugar as well as lower good cholesterol. Soda consumption “appears to be an independent risk factor for heart disease,” says Frank Hu, M.D., professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health.
Drinking two sodas per week increases the risk of pancreatic cancer — the deadliest form of cancer — by 87%, according to the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.
Soda has been shown to increase one’s risk of metabolic syndrome by 44%, a child’s risk of becoming obese by 60% and gout by 85%, according to researchers at Boston University School of Medicine.
Soda should not be promoted or marketed to children, teenagers or individuals who may have genetic predispositions to the above conditions.
Dr Cory Couillard is an international healthcare speaker and columnist for numerous newspapers, magazines, websites and publications throughout the world. He works in collaboration with the World Health Organisation’s goals of disease prevention and global healthcare education. Views do not necessarily reflect endorsement.