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Soft drinks, fruit drinks and sports drinks eliminated from Boston public schools

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Sugar-sweetened drinks are one of many culprits to blame for the increasing childhood obesity rates. Boston policy makers took a stand but were their efforts worth it?

There are about 12.5 million children and adolescents between the ages 2 to 19 in America that are considered obese and rates are still increasing. Sugar-sweetened beverages like sodas, fruit drinks and sports drinks have been blamed for increasing rates of childhood obesity. These drinks have minimal nutritional value and add excess calories without providing any benefits, so Boston policy makers took a step to help combat childhood obesity.

"Limit the number of sodas your child drinks."

Beginning in 2004, the Boston Public School Snack and Beverage Policy was altered so that the sale of soft drinks, fruit drinks (non-100 percent fruit or vegetable juices) and sports drinks were not allowed anywhere in school buildings or on school campuses. Other beverages are limited in serving size. 

Lead researcher, Angie L. Cradock, Sc.D., a research scientist and deputy director of the Harvard Prevention Research Center and Department of Society, Human Development, and Health, wanted to find out if this policy made a difference in the amount of sugar-sweetened beverages consumed by high school students.

The study included the Boston Public School system which consists of 135 schools. The researchers administered surveys during February through April 2004 and 2006 to students in grades 9 through 12. There were over 1,300 students who participated in the study. The researchers used the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) from the National center for Health Statistics (NCHS) to get a nationally representative sample.

Boston's public school students did show a decline in sugar-sweetened beverages after the policy changed from 1.71 servings in 2004 to 1.38 servings in 2006. The week before the survey, student’s non-consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages more than doubled from 4.5 percent in 2004 to 9.8 percent in 2006. On the other hand there was no decline found in the nationwide sample.

If reductions in drinking sugary drinks remain over time, then tons of excess calories would be eliminated. Even reducing 45 calories a day could eliminate 25 to 40 percent of total excess calories that have been associated with weight gain in children.

This shows that the policy change does make a difference. Cradock says around 14 to 15 percent of calories from sugar-sweetened beverages comes from school settings, so implementing this policy in other schools districts can have a tremendous health impact.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
August 15, 2011
Last Updated:
August 17, 2011