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Limiting School Sodas May Have Low Consumption Impact

Of fifth-graders with access to soft drinks at school, 26 percent consumed them

TUESDAY, Sept. 9 (HealthDay News) -- Access to soft drinks in elementary schools may have a relatively small effect on children's overall consumption, according to research published in the September issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

Meenakshi M. Fernandes, of the Pardee RAND Graduate School in Santa Monica, Calif., analyzed data from 10,215 fifth-graders surveyed as part of a nationally representative cohort of children. Administrators reported on soft-drink availability at school, and children reported on overall and school-based soft-drink consumption in the past week. These included sodas, sports drinks and fruit drinks that weren't 100 percent juice.

Nearly 40 percent of elementary schools offered soft drinks in 2004, the investigator found, and roughly one-quarter of children with access to soft drinks at school drank them. In these children, school-based consumption accounted for about half of their overall consumption. Removing soft drinks from schools would lower the share of children who consume soft drinks by an estimated 4 percent, without significantly impacting the overall consumption, the author writes.

"If soft drinks are no longer available at schools, children may instead purchase them from food retail outlets close to school. One study found a high concentration of fast-food restaurants in close proximity to schools in Chicago, suggesting that substitution could likely occur if soft drink availability were curtailed in schools. Another possibility is that children's desire for soft drinks may decrease as fewer members of their peers are consuming them due to limited availability," Fernandes writes.

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