Easy access to soft drinks a main reason for consumption

Just one can of sugary soft drink per day can add 6.75kg to your weight over a year.
Just one can of sugary soft drink per day can add 6.75kg to your weight over a year. Getty - Digital Vision

AUSTRALIAN school aged children are consuming alarming amounts of soft drink, a University of Sydney study has found.

Using data from the 2010 New South Wales Schools Physical Activity and Nutrition Survey, researchers found primary and secondary school students were five times as likely to be high consumers of sugar-sweetened drinks if these drinks were easily accessible in their homes.

More than half (52%) of the 8058 students surveyed were boys and 59% were high school students.

The authors of the study, which was published in the journal Preventive Medicine this week, found students were more likely to be high consumers of soft drinks if they were from a lower socio-economic background or were boys.

Lead author and accredited practicing dietician Lana Hebden said the study indicated strong associations between school students' access to soft drinks at school or in the home and increased consumption.

"We also found students who drank soft drink with meals at home were almost 10 times as likely to be high consumers of these drinks," Ms Hebden said.

"Parents need to consider what is stored in their cupboards or fridge and what their children have access to."

The authors also found students who usually purchased soft drinks from their school canteen were three times as likely to be high consumers.

Ms Hebden said soft drink consumption among young people could be linked to weight gain, dental caries, elevated blood pressure, insulin resistance and lower bone mineral density in adolescents.

"While there is a mandate from 2007 that schools should not sell sugar-sweetened drinks, such as soft drinks, at school, this policy is not monitored or policed," she said.

The researchers said parents needed to have access to information about how to limit their children's access to sugar-sweetened drinks at home.

This included only buying soft drinks for special occasions, not keeping them in the fridge or pantry, not offering them to children with their meals regularly, and replacing them with more nutritious drink options, such as water or reduced fat milks.

Other strategies such as taxes on sugar sweetened drinks may also help to discourage the consumption of these drinks, the authors said.