Teen violence linked to... excessive soda consumption!?

Posted by David Gomez

A new study has linked teen violence to excessive consumption of sugary soda.

In my opinion, this is a clear example of why you probably shouldn't believe everything you read, even if it is authored by scientists or researchers.

The story from AFP describes the research in a straight up news style, but the article doesn’t analyze the quotes and the details from the scientists. Analysis is needed when digesting this story because the claims the researchers make are serious ones which should not be taken lightly.
    
They suggest - in an open ended manner - than consuming too much soda could be causing teens to act violent. But they are only basing this on what hard statistics are telling them.
    
A good summary of their conclusion would be this sentence from the abstract of the research paper AFP reported on: "Adolescents who drank more than five cans of soft drinks per week were significantly more likely to have carried a weapon and to have been violent with peers, family members and dates."
    
To be fair the, scientists acknowledged they do not know the exact reason why teens who drink a lot of soda are prone to violence, but they do suggest that it could be due to the sugar or caffeine content.
    
That should sound crazy to you, because it is, as the study does not include the important human element that is likely present in their statistical measure.
    
To obtain statistical data, researchers used a survey method, meaning they expected students in Boston public high schools to answer honestly about how often they drank non-diet soft drinks and whether they had carried a weapon or engaged in physical violence with a peer.
    
I’m not saying the students are liars and their answers unreliable, but taking a survey about soda drinking and violence is a lot different than conducting a laboratory experiment where subjects are given soda and uncontrollable violence was the clear result.
    
The human element I mentioned has to do with the parenting in the households of the students who took the surveys. Maybe there is a statistical link between students who drink a lot of soda and engaging in violent acts, but there has to be a psychological link too.
    
Are we really supposed to believe that these kids are engaging in more violent acts because they drink too much soda?
    
No, I’d say it’s far more likely that the kids who drink a lot of soda do so because they are the victims of crappy parenting. If a kid’s parents don’t care about how much soda they drink, isn’t it also likely that they don’t care about how they express themselves emotionally?
    
This could mean that violent the outbursts in the extreme soda drinkers are more likely caused by psychological reasons, not because caffeine and sugar makes people violent.
    
The research originates from people who may or may not be pushing an agenda, but it is certainly the type of smoking gun that a politician would use to put even more regulation on sugary drinks. And that’s the last thing we need in the United States.
    
I would hope that people who read news about such a study would be able to do their own research, but hardly anyone does that. The way these things are presented to the public makes it sound like its indisputable fact, and it’s not.