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But study does not appear to clearly indicate whether it's part of a broader caloric problem

In 2011 and 2012 the U.S. federal government paid$7.3B USD in corn subsidies, most of which went in the pockets of "big corn" -- Cargill, Inc., Archer Daniels Midland Comp. (ADM), Gavilon, and ConAgra Foods, Inc. (CAG).  These corporations control roughly 60 percent of the market according to a 2007 National Farmer's Union (NFU) report [PDF], and have deep ties to top federal politicians (for example Gavilon co-owner George Soros donated $5M USD to President Obama and fellow pro-corn Democrats in the last election cycle).  

In addition to lining the pockets of big corn these subsidies have served to make corn syrup cheap, in turn propagating the sugary foods and beverages that use it such as pop/soda/coke.

I. Study Ties Sugary Pop to Violent Children

Researchers at Columbia University have performed a statistical analysis of data on 3,000 5-year-old children enrolled in the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, a study that's tracking both mothers and children in 20 large U.S. cities.

While much of the study -- including the Child Behavior Checklist -- focuses on psychological and sociological content, part of the study also focuses on diet, inquiring about soft drinking consumption.  This in turn offers some interesting opportunities to see if there's really a link between corn syrup and child misbehavior, which corn syrup's critics have long alleged.

The study found that 43 percent of children consumed one or more soft drink serving a day, while 4 percent consumed 4 servings or more a day.  A clear correlation was found between "aggression, withdrawal, and attention problems (i.e. ADHD)" and soft drink consumption.

But soft drinks are cheap; simple logic would suggest poverty would both predispose kids to behavior issues and to heavy consumption of cheaper foods.  But the Columbia team claims that even with "sociodemographic factors, maternal depression, intimate partner violence, and paternal incarceration" removed, there's still a clear correlation between "any soft drink consumption was associated with increased aggressive behavior."

Children who drank 4 or more soft drinks a day were found to be twice as likely to exhibit violent behavior -- breaking toys, getting in fights with peers, and physically attacking adults.

II. Is the High Fructose Corn Syrup or the Higher Caloric Intake in General to Blame?

Dr. Shakira Suglia, ScD, the study's first author comments, "We found that the child's aggressive behavior score increased with every increase in soft drinks servings per day."

The conclusions are controversial, given recent efforts by certain state and city governments (including Mayor Michael Bloomberg's New York City regime) to regulate soft drink consumption.

Soft drink ban
Some, like New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, have pushed to restrict or ban soft drinks to curb public obesity and related health issues. [Image Source: AP]

The compelling question is whether the authors overlooked some correlation or greater overarching trend.  Despite the inarguable criticism over big corn and government handouts, the case against high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is sketchier from a scientific perspective.  No sweeter than table sugar, and with a similar caloric profile it does not appear HFCS is significantly different from its more expensive traditional brethren.

On the flip side both sucrose and corn syrup consumption has risen sharply over the last couple decades as obesity in America has also spiked.  A technical paper [abstract] arguably sponsored by big corn (from the White Technical Research food and beverage industry consulting firm) raises this interesting chicken or egg dilemma in a recent 2008 paper in defense of HFCS.  While undeniably biased the paper does show data indicating that HFCS consumption has only risen roughly proportionally with the increase in overall calories.

Thus while there appears to be a clear link between HFCS and child misbehavior, it remains to be seen if the true correlation is between caloric intake and misbehavior.  If that was a case, it would still be an indictment of gov't subsidizing of corporate farming of high caloric foods (e.g. oil and sugar crops), but would provide a more rational scientific explanation for this otherwise confusing conclusion.

The paper on Dr. Suglia, et al.'s work was published [abstract] in The Journal of Pediatrics.

Sources: The Journal of Pediatrics [abstract], Elsevier/Columbia Univ. [press release]

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Utterly worthless without a control group
By inperfectdarkness on 8/19/2013 4:54:39 PM , Rating: 2
Diet or regular soft-drinks?
Caffeinated or non-caffeinated?
How does regular Kool-Aid stack up against soft-drinks?
How about sugar-free Kool-Aid (or Mio, etc)?

Here's just a few questions just off the top of my head. There's just too many variables left uncontrolled. Maybe it is the sugar. Maybe it's the caffeine. Maybe it's the carbonation. Maybe it's the quality of the water used. I could go on and on.

Interesting research, but hardly conclusive whatsoever.

RE: Utterly worthless without a control group
By venym76 on 8/19/2013 5:05:18 PM , Rating: 1
Unfortunately Government doesn't care about these things, they want to push an agenda and this fits that agenda. Forget facts, they make sh*t up all the time to fit their goals, like the 300k kids that guns kill a year, no data to back it up, but damn it, it furthers an agenda.

By althaz on 8/19/2013 9:02:23 PM , Rating: 2
Obviously you are a conspiracy theorist (obligatory XKCD:, but I don't think anybody has ever claimed that 300 thousand kids are killed in the US every year - however 31,000 people are killed by guns every year in the US. There's no need for anybody to make up any figures regarding gun violence - these figures speak for themselves :).

RE: Utterly worthless without a control group
By Jammrock on 8/19/2013 5:12:03 PM , Rating: 2
Diet soda has recently been found to be even more harmful than regular soda because of the high amounts of artificial sweeteners used. Though some people, mainly Coca-Cola, have argued this is untrue. I'm not a doctor nor a neural scientist so I won't comment further.

As to the article in DailyTech they are pretty clear about it being high caloric intake caused by large amounts of sugar that causes the issue. Somehow I think, or at least hope, the scientist involved in the study were smart enough to control the variables enough to get accurate results.

Furthermore, DailyTech is a news aggregation service, not a scientific journal, so those details are best left to others to cover. If you want answers to those particular questions you'd be better off reading the study itself, or at least a scientific journal peer reviewing the results.

By Dorkyman on 8/19/2013 8:26:34 PM , Rating: 2
I think it would be safe to say that DailyTech readers probably drink far more soda than the average person. So based on this study, you guys are dangerous and should be put away. Or at least looked at very carefully.

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