School beverage bans may not reduce consumption

by Eric Schroeder
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CHICAGO — The banning of sugar-sweetened beverages in schools does not appear to reduce overall consumption among adolescents, according to a study published on-line by the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. The study found that just banning soda in schools did not limit consumption and even a ban of all sugar-sweetened beverages in schools, while limiting access, did not limit overall consumption.

Daniel R. Taber and colleagues from the University of Illinois at Chicago examined state policies that banned all sugar-sweetened beverages in schools compared with states that banned only soda or had no beverage policy for in-school purchases to determine whether these policies were associated with reduced in-school access and purchase of sugar-sweetened beverages. The authors also sought to determine if these polices were associated with reduced overall consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages among adolescents.

The study included 6,900 students from public schools in 40 states, who were sampled during their fifth and eighth grade years, spring 2004 and 2007, respectively, and had completed questionnaires about their in-school access to and purchase of sugar-sweetened beverages, as well as their overall consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages. The authors found that the proportion of students who reported in-school sugar-sweetened beverage access and purchasing were similar in states that banned only soda (66.6% and 28.9%) compared with states with no beverage policy (66.6% and 26%, respectively).

Overall, sugar-sweetened beverage consumption was not associated with state policy as the authors found that in each policy category, approximately 85% of students reported consuming sugar-sweetened beverages at least once in the past seven days, and 26% to 33% of students reported daily consumption. Additional analysis indicated that overall consumption had only a modest association with in-school sugar-sweetened beverage access.

“To summarize, state policies regulating beverages sold in middle schools were associated with reduced in-school sugar-sweetened beverage access and purchasing only if they banned all sugar-sweetened beverages,” the authors wrote in the study. “Access and purchasing were equivalent in states that banned only soda compared with those with no policy at all. However, even comprehensive sugar-sweetened beverage policies were not associated with overall consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, which was largely independent of students' in-school sugar-sweetened beverage access.

“Our study adds to a growing body of literature that suggests that to be effective, school-based policy interventions must be comprehensive. States that only ban soda, while allowing other beverages with added caloric sweeteners, appear to be no more successful at reducing adolescents' sugar-sweetened beverage access and purchasing within school than states that take no action at all.”

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