It's not an entirely new concept to parents what the health disadvantages drinking soda can pose to children. And with more studies illustrating the growing association between the carbonated beverage and ill behavior among adolescents, such as mood-related disorders due to high consumption, it is worth looking into the connection of soda with similar problems in younger children.
In a study by the Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, University of Vermont and the Harvard School of Public Health, published recently in the Journal of Pediatrics, 43 percent of five-year-olds included in their research had at least one serving of soda per day, while 4 percent had as much as four or more servings daily.
Aside from the level of consumption, the researchers looked into other factors that could affect the results, such as their individual diets, as well as depression and domestic abuse that their mother might have experienced while pregnant.
It was discovered that the higher the children's daily intake of soda, the higher the likelihood that they would have a more aggressive behavior, as well as exhibit withdrawal and attention problems. They were more likely to get into fights, destroy the possessions of others, or attack other people physically.
The study authors describe soda as typically composed of "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".
In other studies, caffeine has been linked to changes in hormone levels, which may affect the way developing brains "perceive and evaluate risk". Because there is still limited information on caffeine and its effects on different brain systems, the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) are still looking into the safety of other caffeine-infused products that kids may have had intake of, such as drinks, junkfood and even gum.
Another possible factor is the sugar in the soda, though the connection still needs to be investigated. In fact, even with doses such as four cans a day, which is considered "average" for human consumption, it has been found that sugar has "toxic effects" on mice's brains, impairing their ability to establish territory and to reproduce. The mice were given a diet with 25% sugar--equivalent to that of a healthy human diet.
Researcher Dr. Suglia strongly urges parents to limit or totally taking away soda from their child's diet in order to prevent or reduce the possibility of such behavioral problems. Healthier drinks like fresh fruit juices are a great alternative.
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"We already know soda is not the healthiest option for kids," says Suglia. "This is another reason to be concerned and to limit soda among adolescents and younger children."