Getting Hard on Soft Drinks in Schools

Medical Author: Frederick Hecht, M.D.
Medical Editor: Barbara K. Hecht, Ph.D.

Jan 5, 2004 -- The sale of soft drinks should be eliminated from schools to protect children's health, according to a new policy statement by the American Academy of Pediatrics in the January issue of the journal Pediatrics.

Sweet soft drinks constitute the primary source of added sugar in the daily diet of children. Each 12-ounce serving of a carbonated, sweetened soft drink contains the equivalent of 10 teaspoons of sugar! The majority of school-age children consume at least one soft drink daily.

Overweight and Other Health Problems

The consumption of sweetened soft drinks has been associated with the increased risk of overweight and obesity, currently the most common health problems in childhood.

Aside from overweight and obesity, sweet soft drinks promote dental caries (cavities) and potential enamel erosion.

Soft drinks also displace milk consumption, resulting in calcium deficiency with an attendant risk of osteoporosis and fractures. As soft drink consumption increases, milk consumption decreases, and milk is the principal source of calcium in the typical American diet.

Schools Make Soft Drinks Ubiquitous

Soft drinks and fruit drinks are sold in vending machines, in school stores, at school sporting events, and at school fund drives. "Exclusive pouring rights" contracts, in which the school agrees to promote one brand exclusively in exchange for money, are being signed in an increasing number of school districts across the country, often with bonus incentives tied to sales. Although they are a new phenomenon, such contracts already have provided schools with more than $200 million in unrestricted revenue.