One Soda, Two Sodas, Three — Watch Out!

Soft drink consumption among children linked to more aggressive behavior

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) The link between soft drinks and obesity is generally well known. But there may be other issues that result when kids drink sodas.

A recent study found that children who drank more soda also tended to be more aggressive than those who drank less soda.

Kids who drank four or more soft drinks a day also experienced more attention difficulties than kids who drank one or no sodas each day.

The results did not change when the researchers took into account other factors that might influence the children's behavior.

"Limit soft drinks for kids."

This study, led by Shakira Suglia, PhD, of the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health in New York, looked at the frequency of behavior problems among young children drinking soft drinks.

The researchers compared data from the mothers of 2,929 children, about half of whom were boys and about half of whom were African American.

The children came from 20 large cities throughout the US. Their mothers reported how often the children drank sodas at age 5 and what their behavior was based on a standardized checklist.

Overall, 43 percent of the children drank at least one serving of soda each day, and 4 percent drank four or more servings a day.

The researchers compared these rates of drinks per day to the children's behavior scores after making adjustments for the children's socioeconomic backgrounds.

The researchers found that the children had more aggressive behavior, based on the mother's checklist report, with the more soda they regularly drank.

Those who drank four or more sodas a day were more than twice as likely to be aggressive than those drinking one soda a day.

The three behaviors specifically tied to overall aggression included fighting with others, physically attacking people and destroying items that belonged to others.

Those drinking two to three sodas a day fell between the kids drinking one soda a day and those drinking four sodas a day in terms of their aggressiveness.

Children drinking four or more servings of soda each day also had greater difficulties with attention than the children drinking less soda daily.

These findings remained after the researchers had adjusted for a variety of other factors, including TV viewing, other dietary factors (such as the amount of candy they ate and fruit juice they drank) and social factors that might influence behavior.

Social factors included possible depression in a child's mother, a father in prison or living in a home with domestic violence.

The researchers also found higher aggression scores among those who had candy or sweets at least three times a day compared to those who had no candy.

In addition, kids who drank one serving of fruit juice each day tended to have lower attention scores than those who did not drink fruit juice.

The researchers suggested that the sugar or the caffeine in soft drinks may be part of the explanation for their findings, but more research is needed to understand how soft drinks relate to aggressive behavior.

In any case, a bit of caution with soft drinks is already warranted, according to Tracie Newman, MD, a pediatrician with Sanford Health in Fargo, North Dakota, and a dailyRx expert.

"Generally, I recommend limiting consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages such as soda," Dr. Newman said. "The findings in this study are interesting, but not surprising, given the already established health risks tied to soda, namely obesity and dental health."

This study was published August 16 in the Journal of Pediatrics. The research was funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Development at the National Institutes of Health. The authors declared no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
August 16, 2013
Last Updated:
August 23, 2013