The study, conducted by researchers from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, the University of Vermont, and the Harvard School of Public Health, examined the relationship between soda consumption and behavior in around 3,000 five-year old children across 20 US cities.
It found that those children that drank four or more servings of soda per day – 4% of the sample group – were more than twice as likely to destroy things belonging to others, get into fights, and physically attack others.
The 4% also were also found to have increased attention problems and withdrawal behavior.
Head researcher Dr Shakira Suglia has admitted, however, that because of the study’s reliance on self-reporting by mothers, it was unable to pinpoint the type of soda, or the exact serving size associated with the increase in “negative behavior.”
Science doesn’t “support conclusion”
The ABA, which represents the interests of the US non-alcoholic drinks industry, has panned Suglia’s team’s findings.
According to the ABA, the researchers took a “leap to suggest that drinking soda causes these or any other behavioral issue."
“The science does not support that conclusion,” the ABA said in a statement.
“The authors themselves note that their study ‘is not able to identify the nature of the association between soft drinks and problem behaviors’. Importantly, our member companies do not promote or market the consumption of soft drinks to children in the age group examined in this study.”
Warning statements recommended
On the back of its findings, the study, which was published in the Journal of Pediatrics earlier this month, also made the recommendation that sodas should carry relevant warning labels.
The Australian Beverage Council, which represents Coca Cola Pacific, PepsiCo Australia, Schweppes Australia and Red Bull, has dismissed the recommendation – branding it “irresponsible.”
“Calling for warning statements regarding the amount of sugar soft drinks contain are not only absurd but lack any credible evidence to support them. In accordance with Australian food laws, all beverages clearly state on the back label exactly how much sugar each drink contains,” said Australian Beverage Council CEO, Geoff Parker.
“It is irresponsible for any expert to be suggesting such extreme recommendations as warnings statements based off this very weak study,” Parker added.