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School soda ban impacts black students the most

Dominika Osmolska Psy.D.'s picture

Policy makers are pushing healthier eating in our communities and schools as part of an ongoing effort to address an ever expanding obesity epidemic in this country, particularly troublesome among children and teens. Now a new study has found that those policies may be reducing disparities in soda consumption among teens of different racial and ethnic groups.

The study finds that in states banning or discouraging the sale of junk food at schools' concession stands, daily soda consumption has dropped by twice as much among black students as among all students. Unfortunately, that drop does not translate to a drop in the students’ overall BMI, or body mass index. That may be because the 0.19 servings per day that were eliminated amount to just 50 calories. And that may simply not be enough of a calorie drop to make a difference, especially in a teen who is already overweight.

"Soda is widely considered to be a contributor to the increase in obesity because it has been associated with excess energy intake and weight gain" in several studies, the study authors wrote. "It became a larger source of energy intake among adolescents during the same period that obesity prevalence increased."

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The problem may be that not enough soda is being cut out, or that students are compensating for the drop in soda consumption by increasing their intake of other foods or beverages, the researchers said. The study also relied on self-reports about soda consumption, height and weight, which we all know do not tend to be nearly as accurate as measuring these values independently. People notoriously underreport how much they eat and drink.

What the study does tell us, perhaps, is that black students’ self-perceived soda consumption has dropped. In other words, black students are noticing that they have less access to soda and conclude that they drink less of it. Whether that is true is anybody’s guess. The students might, as researchers point out, be compensating for that loss with other foods and beverages, especially those seen as “healthy,” which may do just as much damage as soda consumption. For example, juices are frequently seen as benign alternatives, but just as soda, they provide extra, largely unnecessary calories in the form of liquid sugar.

The study was published online today (July 21) in the American Journal of Public Health.

Soda consumption, whether in its regular or diet form, is a completely unnecessary element in our diets. It replaces water for healthy hydration, adds extra calories and contributes directly to insulin resistance and the further development of type 2 diabetes, even the diet soda. Several recent studies suggest that diet soda increases insulin resistance and mid-waist fat deposition by signaling the pancreas to produce more insulin than needed.