To describe patterns in sweetened beverage consumption by race/ethnicity and sex, documenting both the amount and types of sweetened beverages consumed; and to examine the association of sweetened beverage consumption with hyperactivity/inattention symptoms among middle school students in a single urban school district.
Middle school students (n = 1649; 47% Hispanic and 38% black, non-Hispanic) from 12 schools, randomly selected out of 27 district schools, completed health behavior surveys in fall 2011. Students reported quantity and types of sweetened beverages consumed in the past 24 hours and completed the 5-item Hyperactivity/Inattention subscale of the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire to measure symptoms.
Amount and variety of reported sweetened beverage consumption (including energy drinks) were greater among boys versus girls and among black and Hispanic versus white students. Risk of hyperactivity/inattention increased by 14% for each additional sweetened beverage consumed, adjusting for age, race/ethnicity, sex, school lunch eligibility, family structure, and sugary food consumption. Students reporting consumption of energy drinks were 66% more likely to be at risk for hyperactivity/inattention after adjusting for number of drinks, other types of drinks consumed, and other potential confounders.
Results support recommendations to limit consumption of sweetened beverages and to avoid consumption of energy drinks among children. Interventions to reduce sweetened beverage consumption should explicitly focus on energy drinks and other emerging sweetened beverages such as sports and sweetened coffee drinks. More research is needed to understand the direction of effects and the mechanisms behind the association between sweetened beverages and hyperactivity/inattention symptoms.