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Is Soda Making Our Kids Angry?

Study says soda drinking in kids under five leads to aggressive behavior.
Photograph by Getty Images/BananaStock RF

If you haven't already noticed, soda's been getting a pretty bad rap lately. Just a few weeks ago, a new study revealed that sugary beverages including soda could be behind our rising childhood obesity rates. And now, an even newer study blames soda for one more not-so-great affect on kids: aggressive behavior.

How so? The study examined 5-year-olds from varying backgrounds and found that those who drank more sugary sodas were far more likely to become angry, withdrawn from others and distracted. Forty-three percent of the kids surveyed in the study by Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing sipped on at least one soda per day, while 4 percent drank a mind-boggling four or more servings daily.

As TIME reports, this latest study is the first time sugary drinks have actually been linked to behavioral issues in kids so young. Still, the findings aren't totally out of left field. Back in 2011, a similar study showed basically the same results among teens who drank five or more cans of soda per week. Those teens were far more likely to act out in anger toward their peers or family members and also more likely to—get this—carry a weapon. Pretty shocking.

Experts are thinking all this intense behavior has something to do with the major caffeine boost many sodas give. Known to alter hormone levels, researchers are still exploring the ways caffeine can impact still-developing brains—especially when it comes to evaluating risk.

And if you think other at-home factors could have been more to blame for the aggression, scientists did their best to control for those possibilities, too. Even when ruling out contributing factors like mom's depression and overall diet, kids who were frequent soda drinkers still showed signs of aggression. And not just run-of-the-mill kid tantrums, either. We're talking physical attacks, fighting and destroying other people's belongings.

So what can you do? The American Academy of Pediatrics doesn't seem to have a go-to "safe" serving size parents can swear by, so it's probably better to just steer clear of sodas and other caffeine-laden foods whenever possible. But remember, it's not just soda you may have to stave off—caffeine is lurking everywhere, even in things like chips and gum.

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