Aggressive behaviors in young children rise with increased soft drink consumption according to a study published Aug. 16 in the journal Pediatrics. The Columbia University study included nearly 3,000 5-year-olds from 20 cities across the United States. Among the children in the study, 43 percent consumed at least one serving of soda a day.
Mother’s were asked to estimate their children’s typical daily soda consumption and complete a Child Behavior Checklist, which evaluates children’s level of aggressive behaviors, withdrawal and attention problems. Behaviors indicative of aggression included destroying things that belong to others, getting into fights and physically attacking people.
Children who consumed at least one serving a day of soda exhibited increased aggressive behaviors, with levels of aggressive behaviors rising with increased soda consumption. Children who drink soda also showed increased attention problems and withdrawn behaviors. There was no significant difference between male and female subjects.
The study also collected data on candy consumption, television-viewing habits and fruit juice consumption. Adjustments for these variables did not change the study results.
The study authors were not able to determine the exact nature of the connection between soda consumption and poor behaviors. They did note that soft drinks are highly processed, and contain high-fructose corn syrup, aspartame, sodium benzoate, phosphoric or citric acid and often caffeine. Any of these ingredients might affect behavior, according to the researchers.
The American Beverage Association responded to the study with an Aug. 16 statement:
“It is a leap to suggest that drinking soda causes these or any other behavioral issue. The science does not support that conclusion. The authors themselves note that their study 'is not able to identify the nature of the association between soft drinks and problem behaviors.’”
The American Beverage Association claims it does not market its products to the age group examined in the study.
Previous studies have associated adolescent soda consumption with aggression, depression, suicidal thoughts and withdrawn behaviors.