Children consume sweetened beverages despite policies

By Sheryl Kay • Published: February 29th, 2012
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

With all good intentions school districts across the country now ban the sale of sweetened soda products on school property. Concerns fueling the prohibitions ranged from growing incidences of obesity and childhood diabetes to poor dental outcomes for children.

So soda is now a no-no in many schools, but what about other types of sugar-laden beverages, which often have just as many calories? Recent research shows that unless the policy includes sweetened juices, energy drinks and the like, in-school consumption of sweetened beverages in general still takes place. And even in districts where such policies exist, overall daily consumption of all these sugary drinks is unaffected.

Appearing in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, the study reported on almost 7,000 children attending public schools in 40 states. The children were surveyed once while in fifth grade and then again in eighth grade. They reported on their drinking habits both in school and after hours, and were taken from districts that both did and did not have soda bans in place.

The result? Researchers ended up finding an insignificant 2 percent difference in sugary beverage consumption at schools that banned sodas and schools that did not. Furthermore, when looking at overall consumption of any sweetened beverage after school hours, the investigators actually found a significantly higher rate of consumption among children attending school where bans were in place compared to districts with no bans. This suggests that children may have gone home and guzzled sweet sodas to make up for their inability to drink these beverages while at school.

The drinking patterns were strong enough to indicate that schools must have comprehensive bans and provide more education for after-hours prevention.