Wednesday, October 26, 2011

I'll Have a Coke and Fight, Please

Teenagers who drink lots of soft drinks get into more fights and carry more weapons than their peers who drink less, found a new study.

And while the study couldn’t determine whether soft drinks actually cause violence, the findings add to a growing -- yet still controversial -- body of research on the effects of nutrition on behavior.

“We were surprised at how large the effect was,” said David Hemenway, director of the Harvard School of Public Health’s Injury Control Research Center in Boston.

“It was maintained even when we controlled for alcohol and tobacco and family stuff like eating dinners together,” he said. “There was a very strong, stable relationship between more soft drinks that people said they drank and more fights with things like pushing and shoving.”
It's hard for me to describe how suspicious I am of correlative studies like this one.  How many different societal variables could co-vary with both violence and soda drinkng in such a way that a net relationship was found?

And given that the investigators went out seeking to find a relationship between sodas and violence, it wouldn't shock me to find a subtle bias, deliberate or not, in the sample selection, that favored finding the relationship.
It’s far too soon to claim that soda causes violence, and the new study only shows a correlation, said Bernard Gesch, who researchers diet and behavior at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom.

Still, there is growing evidence that sugar might deserve at least some of the blame. Some research has shown that willpower is directly related to how the brain metabolizes glucose, Gesch said. There is also good evidence that people who perpetrate violence tend to have abnormalities in that glucose-digesting process. And consuming massive amounts of sugar could set those people up to commit violent acts.
So, I won't experience murderous rages if I keep drinking diet Coke?  That's good news...

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