Teenagers who drink soda are more likely to carry a weapon and act violently, according to new research.
Sara J. Solnick of the University of Vermont and David Hemenway of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston analyzed data collected from 1,878 14- to 18-year-olds in grades nine through 12 in 22 public schools in 2008.
Those who drank five or more cans of non-diet soft drinks every week were significantly more likely to have also consumed alcohol and smoked cigarettes at least once in the previous month, the researchers found.
Moreover, even after taking other factors into consideration such as age, gender and alcohol consumption, the researchers found that heavy use of carbonated non-diet soft drinks was significantly associated with carrying a gun or knife and violence towards peers, family and partners.
About 23 percent of those who drank one or no cans of soda a week carried a gun or knife, and 15 percent had perpetrated violence toward a partner. In comparison, among those who consumed 14 or more cans a week, 43 percent carried a gun or knife and 27 percent had been violent toward a partner, the researchers found. Similarly, violence towards peers rose from 35 percent to 58 percent while violence towards siblings rose from 25.4 percent o 43 percent.
“There was a significant and strong association between soft drinks and violence. There may be a direct cause-and-effect relationship, perhaps due to the sugar or caffeine content of soft drinks, or there may be other factors, unaccounted for in our analyses, that cause both high soft drink consumption and aggression,” the researchers wrote in the journal Injury Prevention in a paper titled: “The ‘Twinkie Defense’: the relationship between carbonated non-diet soft drinks and violence perpetration among Boston high school students.”
The Twinkie Defense refers to Dan White, who was tried for the 1979 assassinations of San Francisco city district Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone. White’s lawyers argued he had “diminished capacity” in part because he was depressed and had recently changed from a health-conscience diet to eating junk food such as Twinkies.