No sodas in schools equals less soda in teens

Surveys conducted in 2004 and 2006 showed that student consumption of sugary drinks was significantly reduced after implementation of policies in the Boston public schools against sale of the drinks. Another national survey did not show a concomitant decline in consumption of these beverages among youths of the same ages. Not only were sodas removed from the schools, but all other sugar-sweetened beverages were removed from school cafeterias and vending machines. All of these decision helped cut high school students’ overall consumption of sugary drinks and sodas, researchers found and reported in the CDC’s journal, Preventing Chronic Disease.

There was no comparable reduction across the country, the researchers said, suggesting that “implementing policies that restrict the sale of sugar-sweetened beverages in schools may be a promising strategy to reduce adolescents’ intake of unnecessary calories.”

Here are the details from a report from MedPage: In June 2004, Boston public schools passed a policy that barred the sale of these drinks — which include soft drinks, sports drinks, and fruit drinks that aren’t 100% fruit juice — in schools and on their campuses. The policy was implemented the following fall.

To determine whether this policy actually reduced consumption, the researchers looked at data on 2,033 high school students who participated in the Boston Youth Survey from February through April 2004, and again from February through April 2006.

They compared these findings with changes in national trends based on data on kids of the same age from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2003-2004 and 2005-2006.

Cradock and colleagues found significant declines in sugar-sweetened beverage consumption after the policy was implemented.

In 2004, Boston’s public high school students reported having 1.71 servings of these drinks every day, falling to 1.38 per day in 2006.

Declines were individually significant for soda, other sugar-sweetened beverages, and total sugary drink consumption during that time, they said (P<0.001 for all).

Also, the proportion of students who said they didn’t have any sugary drinks a week prior to being surveyed more than doubled, increasing from 4.5% in 2004 to 9.8% in 2006.

Conversely, national data revealed no changes in adolescent consumption of these drinks over that time, with kids reporting 1.74 servings daily in 2003-2004 and 1.66 servings in 2005-2006 — not a significant difference.

Cradock and colleagues said the magnitude of the change in Boston amounts to about 45 kcals per day, which could eliminate 25% to 40% of total daily excess calories, potentially leading to reductions in body weight.

That could have a “substantial health impact,” they wrote, noting that the results also suggest kids don’t try to compensate for restrictions on sodas and sports drinks by drinking more when they get home from school.

Since “large quantities” of sugary drinks are still available in schools, however, more policies and environmental efforts are needed in order to “promote and encourage more healthful beverage choices for our nation’s young people.”

The study was limited because the reductions may be attributable to nutrition education focused on sugary drinks – not just removal of the drinks from schools alone. As well, the researchers said, the Boston and national estimates are not directly comparable because of differences in wording and data collection methods.

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