LEUVEN, Belgium (StudyFinds.org) – Sugary drinks have come under intense scrutiny for their link to unhealthy lifestyles and obesity, especially in children. While a new study finds that this may still be the case with young boys, the report also found that girls may actually benefit from a glass of soda in the classroom.
Researchers at KU Leuven say that consuming sugary or artificially sweetened drinks did not affect the classroom behavior of young girls – who also saw their math scores improve slightly.
According to the results, the Sugar Rush improves digital skills in preschool girls, but had the opposite effect on boys. Sugary drinks can relieve stress in girls, say the researchers, by helping them perform better in a subject that some find difficult.
As for young boys, the study found that drinking sugary drinks made them more restless – after an initial ‘relaxing effect’. The researchers did not note any changes in the behavior of the girls during the study. The results come from an experiment involving 462 Belgian children aged four to six.
“The associated effects on classroom performance have major policy implications, as sugary drinks are still sold ubiquitously in schools and consumption of sugary drinks is generally higher among children from low-income households and among boys. », Explains the co-author of the study. Professor Kristof De Witte in a Press release.
The team analyzed the behavior and test results of each participant before and after drinking a sugary or artificially sweetened beverage.
“Our study is the first to provide large-scale experimental evidence on the impact of sugary drinks about preschoolers. The results clearly indicate a causal impact of sugary drinks on children’s behavior and test scores, ”adds corresponding author Fritz Schiltz, PhD.
Does soda act as a stress reliever?
The results in preschoolers reveal new information about the short-term effects of these drinks on performance in the classroom. Previous studies indicate that sugary drinks are one of the main causes of childhood obesity. Another study even linked them to the development of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and other mental health issues.
However, the review’s analysis Health economics is the first to identify their impact on student success.
In boys, the results show that consuming a sugary drink (equivalent to a can of soda) reduced math scores by 26%. Conversely, math scores climbed nearly 29% among young girls.
Dr Schiltz says the relationship between sugar, stress, and math provides a “plausible explanation.” Math makes girls more anxious, the team says. In women, sugar has been shown to reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol while they are calculating equations.
“Although no evidence is available for preschoolers, the differential reductions in cortisol levels in boys and girls after consuming a sugary drink offer a plausible explanation for our results,” the researchers write. in a university outing.
Are the poorest more at risk of consuming sugary drinks?
The authors of the study add that this phenomenon may also be a factor in the poor test scores of boys compared to girls.
“It is a widely held belief that consuming sugary drinks causes a ‘sugar rush’ in children,” the team continues. “Our results indicate that boys decrease their math test scores after drinking a sugary drink, compared to boys who received a placebo. We find the opposite effect for girls.
“Our results suggest that the adverse and persistent effects on boys’ test scores and teacher classrooms are unlikely to be offset by a marginal increase in resources from the sale of sugary drinks at school.”
“In addition, from a societal point of view, our results should be viewed in light of the biased consumption pattern of sugary drinks by gender and socio-economic status, and the detrimental effects on children’s lives in terms of weight gain and obesity rate. “
Public health experts have proposed a ban on vending machines in schools, reducing children’s exposure to advertisements and sugar taxes with the aim of reducing sugar consumption.
“Strong evidence on the impact of sugary drinks in a classroom setting can fuel the discussion on dietary guidelines for schools, sugar taxes and the potential cost of vending machines in schools,” the Belgian researchers conclude. “Taking into account the higher sugar consumption among disadvantaged boys, our results could provide a partial explanation for the observed underperformance of boys in groups with low socioeconomic status. “
South West News Service writer Mark Waghorn contributed to this report.