A new study has found that teenagers who consume high amounts of sugary soda appear to be more prone towards violence than teenagers who consume less or no sugary soda. The more soda a teenager consumes, in other words, the more likely he or she is to show violent aggression towards classmates, a significant other, and even family members.
David Hemenway, a professor at Harvard University’s School of Public, and his colleagues instructed a group of 1,878 public school students from inner-city Boston to fill out questionnaires about how much soda they had consumed in the previous seven days. The questionnaires also asked the students how often they carried weapons, consumed alcohol, smoked, and had a violent interaction with another person.
The students, who ranged in age between 14 and 18, also answered other background questions about how often they ate meals with their families, and their race. After compiling the data and accounting for other outside factors, the research team discovered that soda intake was directly proportional to violence levels.
“What we found was that there was a strong relationship between how many soft drinks that these inner-city kids consumed and how violent they were, not only in violence against peers but also violence in dating relationships, against siblings,” said Hemenway. “It was shocking to us when we saw how clear the relationship was.”
The results showed that students who drank one or no cans of sugary soda a week were nearly half as likely as students who drank 14 cans a week to carry a gun or knife to school. The one or no soda group was also about half as likely to commit violence against a partner, or show violent aggression against peers, compared to the high-consumption group.
“We don’t know why (there is a strong association),” added Hemenway. “There may be some causal effect but it’s also certainly plausible that this is just a marker for other problems — that kids who are violent for whatever reason, they tend to smoke more, they tend to drink more alcohol and they tend to maybe drink more soft drinks. We just don’t know.”
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