WASHINGTON, Aug. 16 (Xinhua) -- U.S. researchers said Friday children as young as five who consume soft drinks every day are more likely to have behavioral problems such as aggression, difficulty in paying attention and social withdrawal.
Previous studies have found that soft drink consumption is associated with aggression, depression, and suicidal thoughts in adolescents but the relationship had not been evaluated in younger children.
It the new study, the researchers from the Columbia University, the University of Vermont, and the Harvard School of Public Health assessed about 3,000 five-year-old children enrolled from 20 large U.S. cities. Mothers reported their child's soft drink consumption and completed the child behavior checklist based on their child's behavior during the previous two months.
The researchers reported in the Journal of Pediatrics that 43 percent of the children consumed at least one serving of soft drinks per day, and 4 percent consumed four or more.
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 said. The kids also had increased attention problems and withdrawal behavior compared with those who did not consume soft drinks.
"We found that the child's aggressive behavior score increased with every increase in soft drinks servings per day," Shakira Suglia, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, said in a statement.
"Although this study cannot identify the exact nature of the association between soft drink consumption and problem behaviors, limiting or eliminating a child's soft drink consumption may reduce behavioral problems," Suglia said.
In response to the new study, the American Beverage Association said it's "a leap" to suggest that drinking soda causes these or any other behavioral issue but "the science does not support that conclusion."
"The authors themselves note that their study is not able to identify the nature of the association between soft drinks and problem behaviors," the association said in a statement. " Importantly, our member companies do not promote or market the consumption of soft drinks to children in the age group examined in this study."