Over the past few years, a number of schools have made a push to ban soda machines from campus in an effort to combat childhood obesity and keep kids from consuming too much sugar. But a new survey has found that schools can ban soda until they're blue in the face, but it won't keep the kids from pouring down the sugar.
The new study, published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, found that laws and school regulations may be keeping soda out of schools, but they're not keeping kids from reaching for other high-calorie drinks. The study's authors found that with soda unavailable, kids are purchasing sweetened fruit or sports drinks instead, essentially drinking the same amount of calories that they would have consumed had they been allowed to drink a soda.
For the study, researchers surveyed almost 7,000 students in 40 states when they were in 5th grade and then in 8th grade about their beverage consumption. They found that two-thirds of 8th graders reported buying sugar-sweetened drinks at school, regardless of whether or not their schools had soda bans.
Previous research has found that soda contributes more calories than any other food or drink in teenagers aged 14 to 18 from 2005 to 2006. And health experts worry that this excessive consumption of calories from sugary drinks may contribute to obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease later in life. This type of research prompted schools to ban sodas from campus, but unfortunately not other high-calorie drinks like fruit drinks and sports drinks.
So what's the answer? More regulation? More bans?
I tend to think at this point that better education may be a better alternative than more drink bans at school. Because even if you ban everything but water, kids will still need to make beverage choices at home. And it's hard to convince kids to reach for water unless they understand how unhealthy the other stuff is for them.
Does your school have a soda ban on campus? How about other high-calorie drinks?