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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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RE: A little young for soda
By Samus on 8/19/2013 5:35:01 PM , Rating: 2
My parents regularly stocked a lot of soda and I grew up drinking it (more so than milk or water) and I've been fighting with various health issues, some linked to HFCS and preservatives, others linked to excess suger intake as an adolescence, but unfortunately many not clinically researched/well understood but theorized to be related to caffeinated or sugary beverage consumption as a child.

Nobody in my family history had these problems until me. Needless to say the only soda beverage I stock in my house for my kids is Ginger Ale, since it at least serves some health benefit when necessary (stomach ache, digestion, etc.)

This society drinks way to much crap. It's a shame our government (NYC) needs to step in to "protect" us when its really just a lapse in education. You don't need a warning on the bottle and a ton of added tax, because sometimes people just want a God damn Pepsi and don't want to pay $5.00 for it. But what people need to realize is this stuff is only safe in moderation. You can't drink it like its water (and even water can be over-consumed)

RE: A little young for soda
By Schrag4 on 8/19/2013 6:34:38 PM , Rating: 2
How old are you? I grew up drinking a fair amount of soda too and at 35 I have no resulting health issues.

I will say, though, that our children are only allowed soda a few times per month. My wife is much more health conscious when it comes to food than my parents ever were. There are times that I don't like it but I believe that in the long run she's doing us all a huge favor.

RE: A little young for soda
By Lord 666 on 8/19/2013 6:40:36 PM , Rating: 2
Same here; from as long as I can remember through 12/13 years old had unlimited access to Pepsi. Around 13 I realized it wasn't good for health and lost about 40 pounds through diet and exercise. After cutting it out, noticed that my body had a difficult time managing blood sugar levels. Not diabetic nor quite exactly hypoglycemic, but would have wide fluctuations even to this day.

Reading this study, I can relate to the so called "violence" and have even shared on DT over the years. First thought it was due to being Irish and genetically a short temper, then maybe parents being divorced, or even being around the wrong crowd, but even after all these years there is something inside me that for the lack of better words is "rage."

Have used it to my advantage personally and professionally, but at times wished it could be cut out. Can even see signs of it in my children and they have only had water and fruit juices. Who knows, but nevertheless an interesting correlation.

RE: A little young for soda
By Schrag4 on 8/20/2013 9:36:06 AM , Rating: 2

Around 13 I realized it wasn't good for health and lost about 40 pounds through diet and exercise...
Reading this study, I can relate to the so called "violence" and have even shared on DT over the years. First thought it was due to being Irish and genetically a short temper, then maybe parents being divorced, or even being around the wrong crowd, but even after all these years there is something inside me that for the lack of better words is "rage."

I'm not an expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I'm pretty sure your rage has to do with A) the divorce of your parents, B) hanging out with the wrong crowd, C) the fact that you were 40 pounds overweight at 13 years old (kids are cruel to each other), and D) all the other hard personal stuff in your life that you haven't shared yet. It's not the sugar. If you really have this rage then you should see someone about it. Serious.

"Young lady, in this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!" -- Homer Simpson

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