Study of the Day: Bans on Soda and Other Sugary Drinks Don't Work

School policies that ban sweet beverages may limit children's access, but new research shows that they don't reduce their overall consumption

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PROBLEM: Though several states have instituted soda bans in school, the regulation of other sugar-sweetened beverages, such as sports refreshments and fruit drinks, has been relatively lax. At the end of the day, how effective are these policies in curbing overall consumption of sugary drinks?

METHODOLOGY: University of Illinois at Chicago researchers led by Daniel R. Taber surveyed 6,900 students in fifth and eighth grade from public schools in 40 states about their in-school access to sugar-sweetened beverages as well as their overall intake of these drinks. They then compared purchase and consumption patterns in schools with no beverage policies and schools with restrictions on in-school purchases of soda or all sugar-sweetened beverages.

RESULTS: State policies were not correlated with adolescents' consumption of sweetened beverages. In each group, approximately 85 percent of students reported consuming these drinks at least once in the past seven days, and around 30 percent of students reported daily consumption. In terms of reducing in-school access and purchase, only policies that banned all sugar-sweetened beverages seemed to be effective.

CONCLUSION: School bans on sugar-sweetened beverages does not appear to lessen consumption among adolescents. Still, to control children's access to and purchase of these drinks while in school, a comprehensive ban may be more effective than a soda-only restriction.

SOURCE: The full study, "Banning All Sugar-Sweetened Beverages in Middle Schools," is published in the journal Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Image: Anatoliy Samara/Shutterstock.

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Hans Villarica writes for and produces The Atlantic's Health channel. His work has appeared in TIME, People Asia, and Fast Company.

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