kid soda

A new study published in the Journal of Pediatrics points to a strong connection between violent children and soda consumption.

Researchers from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health in New York City, Harvard, and the University of Vermont, looked at the behaviors and soda consumption habits of thousands of five-year-old children. The more sugary beverages they consumed, the more they showed a tendency to be destructive and a threat to others.

“We found a significant relation with soda consumption with the overall measure of aggression and with the three specific behaviors we felt were most indicative of aggression: destroying things belonging to others, getting into fights and physically attacking people,” wrote the authors.

Children in 20 major U.S. cities were followed from birth, with frequent surveys about their behavior given to their parents. According to the research, more than 40 percent of the children—who were mostly black and Hispanic—consumed at least one soft drink per day. Four percent consumed four or more sodas per day. With more soda consumption came more violent behavior, attention issues, aggression, and in some cases, withdrawn behavior.

The researchers ruled out factors that could cause the kids’ violent behavior such as candy consumption, home life, family income, neighborhoods and family histories of depression or violence.

Those children who consumed the highest amount of sodas per day were twice as likely to get into physical fights and destroy property.

“Soft drinks are highly processed products containing carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup, aspartame, sodium benzoate, phosphoric or citric acid, and often caffeine, any of which might affect behavior,” the researchers wrote.

Soda sales have been declining in the U.S. as efforts to curb obesity—particularly among children—have looked to eliminate excess sugar in the diet. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently attempted to ban soft drinks above a certain size in New York, but a judge overturned the ban.

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