Yet another study is warning parents to limit soda consumption with children. While previous studies have linked soda consumption with higher rates of obesity, a study published in the journal Pediatrics, says it also causes aggressive, violent behavior in children as young as 5 years old.
Researchers at Columbia University followed the habits of about 3,000 mother-child pairs from 20 large cities in the United States. While the children were followed since birth in the long-term study, the data pertaining to soda consumption was compiled when the children were 5 years old. Researchers asked the mothers to self-report how many servings of soda their child drinks on a typical day, and then answer a series of behavioral questions.
Children who consumed at least four servings of soda per day were twice as likely than those who didn't drink any soda to display aggressive violent behaviors - such as destroying other people's belongings, starting physical fights and verbally attacking other children. The kids were also more likely to have trouble paying attention to instructions, and were more withdrawn socially compared to 5-year-olds who didn't consume soda.
"There was a dose response," said Shakira Suglia, study author and associate professor of epidemiology at Columbia University. "With every increase in soda consumption, we saw an increase in behavior problems. It was significant for kids who consumed as few as one serving of soda per day."
The association was present after researchers adjusted for parenting styles, and socio-demographic factors such as how much violent television the children were exposed to, their sleep schedule, and candy consumption.
Because researchers relied on self-reporting by mothers, they were unable to pinpoint the type of soda (diet versus regular), or the exact serving size associated with the increase in negative behavior.
The American Beverage Association disagrees with the findings of this study. In a statement to CNN, the group said: "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.' Importantly, our member companies do not promote or market the consumption of soft drinks to children in the age group examined in this study."
The researchers say their findings add to the mounting evidence that soda consumption has a negative effect for children.
Other experts warn to limit soda consumption. "Despite the multitude of studies exposing the negative effects of soda consumption, Americans continue to buy and drink more soda than those in any other country," said Marlo Mittler, registered dietician from Cohen Children's Medical Center of New York, and not affiliated with the study. "In an effort to reduce the effects on a child's possible negative behavior, it is suggested to eliminate or avoid any soda consumption."
The American Academy of Pediatrics currently recommends parents and caregivers limit giving children caffeinated or sugar-sweetened beverages, and should instead offer them calorie-free beverages and milk.