A behavioral study of Boston-area high school students provides a link between high levels of consumption of carbonated non-diet soft drinks and violent behavior. Researchers call their findings the “Twinkie Defense,” relating diminished mental capacity to junk food.
The study published in Injury Prevention was the result of researcher interviews with 1,878 teens from 22 high schools. The teens were asked how many cans of carbonated non-diet soft drinks they regularly consume and the data divided into two groups: those who had consumed fewer than four cans over the preceding week (low consumption), and those who had consumed five or more (high consumption).
Another line of questioning in the survey analyzed possible indicators of violent behavior: Had the students been in violent altercations with peers, siblings or partners? Had they carried a gun or knife during the past year?
The information indicates that students who drank higher numbers of soft drinks were about 20 percent more likely to have carried weapons, 12 percent more likely to have been violent toward a partner, 23 percent more likely to exhibit violence toward peers and 17.6 percent more likely to be violent toward siblings.
Overall, heavy soft drink consumers were 9 to 15 percentage points more likely to be violent, concordant with figures linking alcohol and tobacco use to violence in teens.
“There may be a direct cause-and-effect-relationship, perhaps due to the sugar or caffeine content of soft drinks, or there may be other factors, unaccounted for in our analyses, that cause both high soft drink consumption and aggression,” the study’s authors conclude.