Restricting the sale of soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages in schools doesn’t make a dent in students’ overall consumption of those high-calorie drinks, research published Monday afternoon finds.
A study in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine surveyed 6,900 students at 40 public schools across the nation to determine whether state policies regarding sales of sugar-sweetened beverages in schools affected kids’ in-school and overall consumption. Whether kids went to school in states where sales of sodas but not other sugar-sweetened beverages were prohibited, where all sugar-sweetened beverages were prohibited or where no policy was in place, 85 percent reported having consumed a sugar-sweetened beverage during the seven days preceding the survey.
The students were surveyed in 2004 and 2007, when they were in fifth grade and eighth grades.
The study also revealed that the percentage of students who reported having access to sugar-sweetened beverages at school was 66.6 percent both in states that banned only soda and those that had no beverage policy. The percentages of those who purchased sugar-sweetened beverages in school were similar under both policies.
The authors note that schools in states where sales of soda only are prohibited may still sell sugar-sweetened beverages such as fruit drinks and sports drinks, which typically are as high in calories as sugar-sweetened sodas. And, as seems obvious, kids who can’t get their hands on sodas — or other sugar-sweetened beverages — at school simply drink more of them outside school. The authors say that means attempts to curb obesity by reducing sugar-sweetened beverage consumption (which is a major source of empty calories in many American kids’ diets) should be comprehensive, targeting all forms of sugar-sweetened beverages instead of just sodas and addressing both in-school and out-of-school consumption.