Hyperactivity and Mental Health Woes Linked to Soda Consumption

If you have or know soda-guzzling kids who act as if they’re mentally off kilter or hyperactive, there’s now actual documentation of a link between the two.

Thanks to Reuters and my research assistant Jennifer, I just learned about this absolutely fascinating study that just came out in the American Journal of Public Health.

Researchers at the University of Oslo who studied the soda-drinking habits of more than 5,000 10th-grade Norwegian students aged 15 to 16.

Just listen to this conclusion, which comes as no suprise to me:

"High consumption levels of sugar-containing soft drinks were associated with mental health problems among adolescents even after adjustment for possible confounders," wrote Dr. Lars Lien and his colleagues.

Now listen to this important point they made: "The effects of sugar consumption on mental health need to be explored further within ongoing international efforts to map sugar’s harmful health consequences. 

Suffice it to say that I’m thrilled that these Norwegian researchers are taking the lead.

Interesting, the teens who said they skipped breakfast and lunch were among the heaviest soft drink consumers. (Of course, that’s to be expected. Think about it. Your kids run out the door on the way to school with no breakfast, no protein, no healthy fats, and then they just have soda for lunch! That’s scary SUGAR SHOCK! in action!)

And sure enough, students who chugged down more than six servings a week had more mental health issues.

Curiously, the kids who drank no soft drinks were more likely than moderate drinkers to have mental health symptoms, the researchers found.

This study also addresses the much-debated hyperactivity finding.  Sure enough, there was a direct linear relationship: The more soda that a teen drank, the most symptoms of hyperactivity he or she had.

There are so many intriguing things about this study!

  • Take, for instance, the fact that it was funded by Norwegian Public Health Institute, the Municipality of Oslo, and the University of Oslo. (I challenge universities, cities, and public health groups over here in the U.S.! Let’s get funding going for a study like this!)
  • The Oslo researchers believe that this study is the first of its kind. "To our knowledge," they wrote, "no population-based cross-sectional studies have analyzed the association between sugar consumption and mental health problems among adolescents." 
  • Boys totally outdrinked the girls. (21% of girls and 46% of boys consumed 1 glass or more every day of soft drinks.)
  • I learned about yet another fascinating study that somehow slipped my radar screen while I was researching and writing my upcoming book, SUGAR SHOCK! (Berkley Books, Dec. 26, 2006). The findings from Malcolm Peet and his colleagues at Swallownest Court Hospital in Sheffield, United Kingdom — published in the British Journal of Psychiatry in 2004 — were again quite unsurprising to me. Peet, etc. learned that a "higher national dietary intake of refined sugar and dairy products predicted a worse 2-year outcome of schizophrenia." It also concluded that a "high national prevalence of depression was predicted by a low dietary intake of fish and seafood."
  • They also cited a groundbreaking cross-sectional investigation in the Journal of Clinical Epidemiology and a large cohort study of nearly 15,000 individuals in the British Medical Journal, both of which found insulin resistance to be inversely linked to suicide rates and depression, probably as a consequence of increased serotonin concentrations.
  • The researchers noted that "meta-analyses and literature reviews conducted in the mid-1990s… concluded that sugar had no detrimental effects on children with this disorder but that these conclusions have recently been contested." (Check out this important study, "Nutrition in the treatment of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder: a neglected but important aspect," which appeared in Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback.) 

Get Help for Your Soda-Guzzling Kids Now

Are your kids hooked on soda? You can do a lot to help wean them off of their mental health-damaging habit. But, let’s face it, you first have to clean your own house, so to speak. (In other words, try to get your habit in check.)

To get some ideas, first check out my article, "8 Tips to Lose Weight Easily: Just Cut Out Soda & Sugary Drinks — Research Shows Those Sweet Beverages Pack on Pounds," which recently appeared on both on eDiets.com and JustMommies.com.

4 thoughts on “Hyperactivity and Mental Health Woes Linked to Soda Consumption

  1. SUGAR SHOCK! Blog: Hyperactivity and Mental Health Woes Linked to Soda Consumption

    This is a must read for anyone who drinks a lot of soda! Especially if you have kids with ADD or ADHD. Here’s an excerpt: If you have or know soda-guzzling kids who act as if they’re mentally off kilter or hyperactive, there’s now actual documentation …

  2. This is anecdotal evidence but nevertheless may help the argument against excessive sugar intake by children. Since my son came to UK 18 months ago his behaviour has become increasingly aggressive and selfish.
    Whilst some of this may be attributed to other factors there is possibility that the sugar component may at least be partly responsible for his hyperactivity. Pure sugar as added to soft drinks is not a natural food source and this also applies to added sweeteners that possibly contribute to obesity in the developed world.
    I will be attempting to stop/reduce inclusion of soft drinks in our weekly shopping.
    The main problem in providing proof is that insufficient scientific research has been undertaken. Possibly linked to aggressive tactics by soft drink manufacturers who do not encourage study.

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