If you’ve turned on the news tonight, everyone is talking about a study that says soda makes kids go crazy! It actually says 15 percent of teens who drank little or no soda reported violent behavior toward a partner, compared to almost twice that number among those who drank 14 or more cans per week.
This means soda is making kids go crazy, right? Not really. I think this study is really flawed.
First of all, the kids who drank the most soda drank five can per week or more. That’s almost every person I know. Secondly, they only asked minority kids and the data was collected via a survey given to the kids:
“The new study was based on answers to questionnaires filled out by 1,878 public-school students aged 14 to 18 in the inner Boston area, where Hemenway said crime rates were much higher than in the wealthier suburbs. The overwhelming majority of respondents were Hispanic, African-American or mixed; few were Asian or white.”
I don’t understand why they didn’t have a more robust sample, which included rich, white soda drinkers. Would the data be the same? How can it be a “marker” if they didn’t even sample a random group? I also wonder how well kids keep track of how much soda they drink. It would have been slightly better designed if they asked the kids to record what they drank instead of recalling their past consumption.
Scientists flash around “correlation doesn’t equal causation” a lot. That’s akin to asking, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” Does soda cause kids to become violent or do violent kids drink more soda for other reasons? The study doesn’t tell us that.
For example, maybe kids with overall poor diets also drink more soda and it’s their overall diet that causes them to be aggressive. Even poor sleeping habits can cause kids to be aggressive and pick up caffeine. Maybe kids with less educated parents (who allow them to drink more soda) are more violent. Maybe kids with less parental supervision (who wouldn’t be there to tell them not to drink soda) are more violent. Maybe kids who are already depressed and bullied drink soda to self-medicate. You see where I’m going? Is the soda the cause or a result?
I hate when poor studies like this get picked up by the media. It’s a pet peeve of mine. This study shows us nothing. It’s cocktail party trivia. Yet the media touts, “sodas cause kids to be aggressive.”
What could be bad about the media getting people to drink less soda? I believe that sugar and caffeine are bad for kids (they’re bad for adults too), but this study doesn’t prove it. Would getting rid of soda make America healthier? Probably. However, I don’t think we should aggrandize claims that aren’t true, even if the end result is positive. That’s why the true things get ignored so much. The media hops on this and that, and then when something real comes up, people ignore it.
I always say that if it comes from the media (or Dr. Oz), it’s probably not true. If it is true, it’s probably only 10% true. The media either doesn’t know how to read journal results or, the reality, likes to report the most sensationalized version of journal results.
It just makes me mad, so I guess sodas make me more aggressive too.