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 five-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% of the children consumed at least one serving of soft drinks per day, and 4% consumed four or more.
Aggression, withdrawal, and attention problems were associated with soda consumption. Even after adjusting for socio-demographic factors, maternal depression, intimate partner violence and paternal incarceration, soft drink consumption was linked to increased aggressive behaviour.
Children who drank four 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.
While this study could not identify the exact nature of association between soft drink consumption and problem behaviours, limiting or eliminating a child's soft drink consumption may reduce behavioural problems, researchers said.