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Soda Linked to Behavioral Problems in Young Children, Study Says

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Soda has already been blamed for making kids obese. New research blames the sugary drinks for behavioral problems in children too.

Analyzing data from 2,929 families, researchers linked soda consumption to aggression, attention problems and social withdrawal in 5-year-olds. They published their findings in the Journal of Pediatrics on Friday.

Although earlier studies have shown an association between soft-drink consumption and aggression in teens, none had investigated whether a similar relationship existed in younger children.

To that end, Columbia University epidemiologist Shakira Suglia and her colleagues examined data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, which followed 2,929 mother-child pairs in 20 large U.S. cities from the time the children were born. The study, run by Columbia and Princeton University, collected information through surveys the mothers completed periodically over several years. 

In one survey, mothers answered questions about behavior problems in their children. They also reported how much soda their kids drank on a typical day.

Suglia and her colleagues found that even at the young age of 5, 43% of the kids consumed at least one serving of soda per day, and 4% drank four servings or more.

The more soda kids drank, the more likely their mothers were to report that the kids had problems with aggression, withdrawal and staying focused on a task. For instance, children who downed four or more servings of soda per day were more than twice as likely to destroy others' belongings, get into fights and physically attack people, compared with kids who didn't drink soda at all.

Even after adjusting for the potential influence of socioeconomic factors, maternal depression, intimate partner violence and other environmental variables, the researchers still saw a strong association between soda consumption and behavior. "That was pretty striking to us," Suglia said.    


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