Young people * Healthy living

Fizzy drinks linked to teen violence

Fizzy drinks linked to teen violence Small quantities increase likelihood of aggressive behaviour

Too many fizzy drinks can make teenagers more violent, new research has found.

Consuming just one can of a non-diet soft drink daily can “significantly” increase young people’s likelihood of behaving aggressively.

In fact, “heavy use” of full sugar carbonated drinks – defined as more than five cans per week - is associated with teens carrying guns or knives and being violent towards friends, family members and sexual partners.

The US study of 14 to 18-year-olds found that a staggering 43 per cent of those drinking 14 or more cans per week admitted to carrying a gun or knife, compared to 23 per cent of those drinking one or no cans.

Similarly, 27 per cent of those drinking a dozen fizzy cans each week had been violent towards a partner compared to 15 per cent of those drinking one or no cans a week.

Violence towards peers rose from 35 per cent to 58 per cent and violence towards siblings from 25.4 per cent to more than 43 per cent with increased soft drink consumption.

Report author Dr Sara Solnick of the University of Vermont said: “There was a significant and strong association between soft drinks and violence… When we broke it down we found that incidence of violence was going up with every extra can of soft drink.”

She said that while the high sugar or caffeine content of the drinks could in part be to blame, “we don’t know what the reason behind it is. It's hard to say it's the sugar, because sugar is available in a lot of other things as well. There are other ingredients in soft drinks that could be a factor as well.”

The study, published today in the journal Injury Prevention, surveyed 2,000 teens from 22 schools in Boston, Massachusetts. Just under one third were found to consume a high number of carbonated drinks.

Their responses were assessed in the light of other factors, such as age and gender, alcohol consumption and amount of sleep per night. Yet the link between heavy soft drink consumption and violence remained.

Those who drank five or more of soft drinks every week were also “significantly” more likely to have drunk alcohol and smoked in the previous month.

The study appears to back up previous research that suggests poor nutrition may be a cause of antisocial behaviour.

However British expert Professor Peter Kinderman, clinical psychologist at the University of Liverpool, said there were many influences on teenagers’ behaviour and it was “overly simplistic” to blame soft drinks: “There are a large number of known risk factors that would contribute to violent behaviour that have nothing to do with the consumption of these drinks.”

He said the study failed to address the issue that “kids exposed to different social, parental or educational backgrounds might therefore have different diets and different attitudes to aggression, without any direct causal link.”

But Dr Seena Fazel, senior lecturer at Oxford University, said: “A trial of an intervention to reduce high soft drink consumption may be worth considering in high risk populations, and may lead to broader health benefits beyond reducing aggression.”

This article was published on Tue 25 October 2011



Image © Lori Martin - Fotolia.com


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