Students in schools that limited sales of soda and other sugary beverages on campus consumed just as many of the drinks, overall, as students in schools without such restrictions, according to a study.
Published online last week by the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, the study used data on 5,900 students across the country who have been tracked since they were kindergartners in 1998. The researchers focused on data collected when the children were in 5th and 8th grades.
Of the 40 states in the study, 22 had no policy governing sales of sugary drinks in middle schools, 11 forbade sales of soda only, and seven banned all manner of sugar-sweetened beverages, including sports drinks and fruit drinks (but not 100 percent fruit juices). In each category, the prevalence of obesity was essentially the same, ranging from 22.3 percent to 22.6 percent. In addition, 83 percent to 87 percent of students from all categories drank sugar-sweetened beverages at least once a week, and 26 percent to 33 percent of them drank sugar-sweetened beverages at least once a day.
In fact, the study found, students who were subjected to some kind of rule on sugar-sweetened beverages at school were actually more likely to consume sugary drinks on a daily basis.
The authors, all researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago, suggest such policies are having a “minimal impact” because “youth have countless ways to obtain [sugar-sweetened beverages] through convenience stores, fast-food restaurants, and other food outlets in their community.”
The policies seemed to be effective, however, for students who didn’t regularly drink soda or other sugar-sweetened beverages. They were less likely to consume sugary drinks in school when bans were in place.
A version of this article appeared in the November 16, 2011 edition of Education Week as Study: School Soda Bans Don’t Cut Consumption