Society

Study: Heavy Soda Drinking Linked to Teen Violence

| by Michael Allen

Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health said on Tuesday that there was a "shocking" association between violence committed by teenagers and the amount of soda that they drank.

According to a study, published in the British journal Injury Prevention, high-school students in Boston who drank more than five cans of non-diet soft drinks every week were 9 to 15 percent more likely to engage in an "aggressive act" compared with teens who drank less.

David Hemenway, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, told AFP: "What we found was that there was a strong relationship between how many soft drinks that these inner-city kids consumed and how violent they were, not only in violence against peers but also violence in dating relationships, against siblings. It was shocking to us when we saw how clear the relationship was."

The study was based on answers to questionnaires filled out by 1,878 public-school students aged 14 to 18 in the inner Boston area, where Hemenway said crime rates were much higher than in the wealthier suburbs.

The overwhelming majority of respondents were Hispanic, African-American or mixed, a few were Asian or white. Among the questions were how many carbonated non-diet soft drinks, measured in 12-ounce cans, the teens had drunk in the previous seven days.

As it was only intended as a preliminary investigation, the questionnaire did not ask what brand of sodas the teens drank, Hemenway said.

"We don't know why (there is this strong association). There may be some causal effect, but it's also certainly plausible that this is just a marker for other problems, that kids who are violent for whatever reason, they tend to smoke more, they tend to drink more alcohol and they tend to maybe drink more soft drinks. We just don't know. We want to look at it more carefully in following studies."