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School's Sugary Beverages and Obesity

Cola on the Rocks in Glass Teens who attend schools with access to sugary sodas are more likely to drink them and are at a higher risk of being obese than those whose schools do not offer the sweet beverages, suggests a recent Canadian study. The study was published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity.

The study used data from over 11,000 seventh through twelfth graders in 174 schools. The students were part of a Canadian adolescent study and in the 2007/8 school year they had filled out questionnaires about the foods and beverages they had eaten the previous day. That same year, principals had completed a survey on their school' nutrition and physical activity environment. 

Students were more likely to drink sugary beverages when their school had them available. And students had greater risk of being obese in schools where the sugary drinks were available compared to those schools that did not offer the sweet beverages. Both the availability of sugary beverages at school and drinking two or more the previous day linked to the risk of a student being obese versus a normal weight. This link did not hold for being overweight. 

It's possible that access to sweet beverages in the school setting may more likely affect those students who are also more likely to drink the sweet beverages at home. The study also has several limitations, including that the data was from self reports. And school food environments in Canada are different from those in the United States. For example, Canada does not have a national breakfast or lunch program.

Yet, the authors note, the finding adds to the evidence suggesting that a school's environment plays an important role in shaping a healthy diet for adolescents.

Source: Mâsse LC1, de Niet-Fitzgerald JE, Watts AW, Naylor PJ, Saewyc EM. "Associations between the school food environment, student consumption and body mass index of Canadian adolescents." Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2014 Mar 26;11(1):29. doi: 10.1186/1479-5868-11-29.

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