Study: Childhood Violence Linked to Sugary Soft Drinks
August 19, 2013 4:38 PM
(Source: Getty Images)
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
, most of which went in the pockets of "big corn" -- Cargill, Inc., Archer Daniels Midland Comp. (
), Gavilon, and ConAgra Foods, Inc. (
). These corporations control roughly 60 percent of the market according to a 2007
National Farmer's Union
[PDF], and have deep ties to top federal politicians (for example Gavilon co-owner George Soros donated
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
, "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
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
[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
The Journal of Pediatrics
The Journal of Pediatrics [abstract]
Elsevier/Columbia Univ. [press release]
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