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For the record

Do fizzy drinks make teenagers more likely to carry a gun?

A new study links fizzy drink consumption to violent behaviour in teenagers, but there are many other factors not taken into account.

Today’s papers report a study published in the journal Injury Prevention which suggests ‘there may be a direct cause-effect relationship between soft drinks and violence’ in teenagers who consume more than 5 cans of fizzy drink a week. The study surveyed 1900 teenagers in Boston, USA, asking them how many fizzy drinks they consumed daily, whether they carried a weapon and if they acted aggressively. Articles on the story included the Metro, Daily Mail, Mirror, Telegraph and the Daily Express.

Peter Kinderman, Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Liverpool, explains why only limited conclusions can be drawn from this study:

“The causes of violence in young people are complicated. This work is presenting an overly simplistic interpretation of the role of 'soft' drinks. There are a large number of known risk factors that would contribute to violent behaviour. For example, we know that poor diet is associated with a range of negative health and social outcomes, and this could account for the association seen in the results of this study.

More importantly we know that in many areas of human behaviour, correlation does not imply causation. This study fails to address alternative explanations for the findings: kids exposed to different social, parental or educational backgrounds might have both different diets and different attitudes to aggression. As the authors themselves say ‘there may be other factors, unaccounted for in our analyses, which cause both high soft drink consumption and aggression’. That's true, and renders this study rather limited. A laboratory study of the impact of such drinks on aggression and violent behaviour is very feasible and ultimately far more informative.”

Document type: For The Record

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