Soft drinks may cause young children to become aggressive and develop attention problems, according to a study published in The Journal of Pediatrics.
Researchers from the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, the University of Vermont and Harvard School of Public Health, studied around 3,000 children aged 5.
All children were enrolled in the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing study - a cohort study that follows mothers and children from 20 large cities in the US.
The researchers asked the mothers of the children to report their child's soft drink consumption. Their child's behavior in the 2 months prior to the study was reported through a "Child Behavior Checklist."
Just over 40% of the children consumed a minimum of one serving of soft drinks a day, while 4% consumed four or more soft drinks a day.
The study results found that any level of soft drink consumption was linked to higher levels of aggressive behavior, as well as more attention and withdrawal problems.
Compared with children who did not consume any soft drinks, those who had four or more soft drinks a day were over twice as likely to:
Researchers claim that soda drinks increase aggressive behavior in children
- Destroy other people's belongings
- Physically attack others, and
- Get into fights.
Dr. Shakira Suglia, assistant professor of epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health, says: "We found that the child's aggressive behavior score increased with every increase in soft drinks servings per day."
The study authors say there has been a lot of research on the effects of soft drinks in adults.
Medical News Today reported a 2007 study that suggested drinking more than one soft drink a day was linked to heart disease.
A study this year from Imperial College London in the UK found a link between drinking one can of soda a day and a higher risk of diabetes.
But the current researchers say the relationship between soft drinks and child behavior has not been closely evaluated until now.
They note that although their study has been unable to identify exactly why soft drinks can cause these behaviors in children, they recommend that limiting or abolishing a child's soft drink consumption could combat this issue.
In spite of this research, it is not all bad press for soft drinks. A recent study from the University of Washington found that a substance in caramelized sugar and cola had some effects in mice against Duchenne muscular dystrophy.