Ed Driscoll

The Pepsi Syndrome

Soda — is there anything it can’t do?

Researchers in the United States said on Tuesday they had found a “shocking” association — if only a statistical one — between violence by teenagers and the amount of soda they drank.

High-school students in inner-city Boston who consumed more than five cans of non-diet, fizzy soft drinks every week were between nine and 15-percent likelier to engage in an aggressive act compared with counterparts who drank less.

“What we found was that there was a strong relationship between how many soft drinks that these inner-city kids consumed and how violent they were, not only in violence against peers but also violence in dating relationships, against siblings,” said David Hemenway, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health.

“It was shocking to us when we saw how clear the relationship was,” he told AFP in an interview.

But he stressed that only further work would confirm — or disprove — the key question whether higher consumption of sweet sodas caused violent behaviour.

The new study was based on answers to questionnaires filled out by 1,878 public-school students aged 14 to 18 in the inner Boston area, where Hemenway said crime rates were much higher than in the wealthier suburbs.

The overwhelming majority of respondents were Hispanic, African-American or mixed; few were Asian or white.

Among the questions were how much carbonated non-diet soft drink, measured in 12-ounce (355-millilitre) cans, the teens had drunk in the previous seven days.

They were also asked whether they drank alcohol or smoked, carried a weapon or showed violence towards peers, family members and partner.

What emerged, said Hemenway, was evidence of “dose response,” in other words, the more soda was consumed, the likelier the tendency towards violence.

I’m going to really go out on a limb here, but it’s possible — just possible, there may be other motivations that lead to gang violence than sucking back too many Mr. Pibbs or Diet Cokes. (And have thermonuclear Diet Coke and Mentos bombs replaced zip guns and switchblades as the leading weapon of choice among the more insidious of the gangs?)

Flashback: Law & Order SVU blows the lid off the evils of Big Soda.

Related: In the comments, Andrew X notes that it was non-diet soda mentioned in the survey. Maybe Joe Biden was right — high-fructose corn syrup: more dangerous than terrorism!