Pals can help teens cut back on sugary drinks
A new study has found that teenagers can be persuaded to cut back on consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks with a little help from peers.
A 30-day challenge encouraging teens to reduce sugar-sweetened drink use lowered their overall consumption substantially and increased by two-thirds the percentage of high-school students who shunned sugary drinks altogether.
In the "Sodabriety" challenge, piloted by Ohio State University researchers, students were tapped to establish teen advisory councils, whose members led the interventions at two rural Appalachian high schools.
They designed marketing campaigns, planned school assemblies and shared a fact per day about sugar-sweetened drinks over the morning announcements.
The primary message to their peers: Try to cut back on sugar-sweetened beverages for 30 days. Students opted not to promote eliminating these drinks entirely during the challenge.
Overall, participating teens did lower their intake of sugary drinks, and the percentage of youths who abstained from drinking sugar-sweetened beverages increased from 7.2 percent to 11.8 percent of the participants. That percentage was sustained for 30 days after the intervention ended.
In an unexpected result, water consumption among participants increased significantly by 60 days after the start of the program, even without any promotion of water as a substitute for sugar-sweetened drinks.
Laureen Smith, associate professor of nursing at Ohio State and lead author of the study, said that the students' water consumption before the intervention was lousy, but then they saw a big improvement in that.
Smith added that there was a huge reduction in sugar-sweetened beverage consumption and the kids were consuming them fewer days per week and when they were consuming these drinks, they had fewer servings.
In the long run, Smith hopes a drop in the use of sugary drinks could help curb Type 2 diabetes in rural communities.
The research is published in the Journal of School Health.
(Posted on 27-03-2014)