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More Soda, More Problems for 5-Year-Olds

Update Date: Aug 16, 2013 11:53 AM EDT

Previous studies have linked sodas to aggression, depression and suicidal thoughts in adolescents.  However, new research reveals soft drinks may also negatively affect mental health in younger children.

A new study, published in The Journal of Pediatrics, reveals that soft drink consumption can increase aggression, attention problems and withdrawal behavior in young children.

"We found that the child's aggressive behavior score increased with every increase in soft drinks servings per day," Lead researcher Shakira Suglia said in a news release.

Suglia and colleagues from Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, University of Vermont, and Harvard School of Public Health looked at data from 3,000 5-year-old children enrolled in the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, a prospective birth cohort that follows mother-child pairs from 20 large U.S. cities.

Mothers in the study reported their children's soft drink consumption and completed the Child Behavior Checklist based on their child's behavior during the previous two months.

The study results revealed that 43 percent of the children in the study drank at least 1 serving of soda per day and 4 percent consumed four or more servings.

The study found that children who regularly had soft drinks were more likely to be aggressive, show withdrawal behavior and have attention problems. Even after accounting for factors like socioeconomic status, maternal depression, intimate partner violence, and paternal incarceration, researchers found that any soft drink consumption was associated with increased aggressive behavior.  

The study revealed that children who drank 4 or more servings of soft drinks a day were more than twice as likely to destroy things that belonged to others, get into fights and physically attack people. These kids also had increased attention problems and withdrawal behavior compared with those who did not consume soft drinks.

While researchers were unable to identify the reason for the association between soft drink consumption and problem behaviors, they conclude that limiting or eliminating a child's soft drink consumption may reduce behavioral problems.

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