Heavy soft drink consumption is associated with aggression, attention problems and withdrawal behaviour in young children, a new study has found.
The study by researchers at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, University of Vermont, and Harvard School of Public Health assessed approximately 3,000 5-year-old children.
The kids were enrolled in the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, a prospective birth cohort that follows mother-child pairs from 20 large US cities.
Mothers reported their child's soft drink consumption and completed the Child Behaviour Checklist based on their child's behaviour during the previous two months.
The researchers found that 43 per cent of the children consumed at least 1 serving of soft drinks per day, and 4 per cent consumed 4 or more.
Aggression, withdrawal, and attention problems were associated with soda consumption. Even after adjusting for sociodemographic factors, maternal depression, intimate partner violence, and paternal incarceration, any soft drink consumption was linked to increased aggressive behaviour.
Children who drank 4 or more soft drinks per day were more than twice as likely to destroy things belonging to others, get into fights, and physically attack people.
They also had increased attention problems and withdrawal behaviour compared with those who did not consume soft drinks.
"We found that the child's aggressive behaviour score increased with every increase in soft drinks servings per day," said Shakira Suglia, Mailman School assistant professor of Epidemiology.
Although this study cannot identify the exact nature of the association between soft drink consumption and problem behaviours, limiting or eliminating a child's soft drink consumption may reduce behavioural problems, researchers said.
The study was published in The Journal of Pediatrics.