Soda Linked to Aggression, Violence in Teens

Soda Linked to Aggression in TeensConsumption of soft drinks has increased sharply in the U.S. in the last few years. Doctors and nutritionists have known for some time that high consumption of soft drinks carries certain physical health risks for adults, teenagers and younger children. According to the results of two studies published in 2012 and 2013, teenagers who consume large amounts of soft drinks have increased chances of involvement in aggression or violence, as well as increased chances of involvement in some sort of suicidal behavior.

Background Information

In non-diet soft drinks, the most common sweeteners are high fructose corn syrup and sugar. The authors of a 2013 report from the Harvard School of Public Health note that 20-oz servings of non-diet drinks typically contain the equivalent of 15 to 18 teaspoons of sugar, as well as well over 200 calories. Commonly available “super-sized” fountain drinks may contain up to three times as much sugar and calories. Unfortunately, this liquid calorie intake does not generally decrease a person’s hunger level, so there is usually no reduction in food calorie intake to offset the influx of calories from soft drink consumption. The companies that sell soft drinks frequently target teenagers or younger children and the result has been an increase in teen and child consumption of these beverages throughout the 2000s. Roughly 80 percent of U.S. residents below the age of 18 drink at least one soft drink a day, according to the authors of a second report published by the Harvard School of Public Health. Consumption is especially high among adolescent boys, who typically drink more than 32 ounces of soft drinks per day.

Previously Identified Health Risks

Modern scientific research ties high soft drink consumption to increased risks for a number of significant health problems. For example, adults, teens and younger children who consume even relatively small amounts of soft drinks as part of their regular diets have significantly increased chances of gaining enough weight to eventually qualify as obese. In turn, obese people have increased chances of developing heart disease, the joint disorder called gout and type 2 diabetes (among other health problems). Apart from any obesity-related risks, regular soft drink consumption also independently increases a person’s chances for developing these disorders.

Aggression and Suicidal Behavior

In a study published in 2012 in the journal Injury Prevention, researchers from Harvard and the University of Vermont examined the statistical connection between non-diet soft drink consumption and the chances for participation in aggressive or violent behavior among a group of almost 1,900 teenagers enrolled in high school in Boston. The authors of this study concluded that teens who drink six or more servings of soft drinks per week have substantially increased risks for doing such things as acting violently toward their peers or members of the opposite sex, acting violently toward their parents or other family members, or regularly arming themselves with some sort of weapon. These risks remain even when other factors that can play a role in violence or aggression-—including gender, ethnic background, substance use, sleeping behaviors and level of family participation—-are taken into account.

In a second study, published in 2013 in the International Journal of Injury Control and Safety Promotion, the same research team used information from a nationwide project called the Youth Risk Behavior Survey to examine the connection between soft drink intake, displays of aggression and suicidal behavior among teenagers. The researchers concluded that, in addition to aggression-related risks, teens who drink large amounts of soft drinks have significantly increased chances of becoming depressed, thinking about suicide or actively making suicide attempts. The researchers also concluded that these chances grow larger as soft drink intake rises.

Considerations

A statistical link between two facts does not mean that those facts are causally connected; indeed, factors that appear simultaneously in the same person often have nothing to do with each other. The authors of the studies published in Injury Prevention and the International Journal of Injury Control and Safety Promotion point out this possibility, and also note that no one know really knows if increased soft drink consumption actually causes an increase in aggression, violent behavior and suicidal behavior. However, if there is a causal connection between these factors, doctors and researchers may someday use awareness of such a connection to improve the detection of violence- and suicide-related risks in teen populations.

Posted on August 26th, 2013
Posted in Teens

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