Are US adolescents aware of the health risks associated with consuming sugar-sweetened beverages?

In a recent study published in the Nutrients Journal, researchers discussed the correlation between health risk awareness and sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) consumption.

Study: Associations between Knowledge of Health Risks and Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Intake among US Adolescents. Image Credit: monticello/Shutterstock.comStudy: Associations between Knowledge of Health Risks and Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Intake among US Adolescents. Image Credit: monticello/Shutterstock.com

Background

American teenagers consume most of their added sugars from SSBs. Studies have yielded conflicting results regarding the relationship between adolescents' nutritional knowledge and their consumption of SSBs.

A study in Australia discovered that teenagers between 12 and 17 who were aware of the health risks associated with soft drinks tended to consume less.

However, in the United States, studies have shown that knowledge of SSB-related health risks among youth or their parents/caregivers did not significantly impact daily SSB intake. Further research is needed to address the inconsistent results from previous studies concerning youth  SSB consumption.

About the study

In the present study, researchers investigated the correlation between adolescents' awareness of health hazards associated with SSB and their SSB consumption.

A cross-sectional study used Porter Novelli Public Services' Styles surveys' summer wave data. These surveys were online panel surveys and represented the noninstitutionalized US population. The survey covered various topics, such as health-related knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors.

Participants who answered the SpringStyles survey were sent the SummerStyles survey in June 2021. The SpringStyles survey was conducted between March and April 2021 and involved 10,919 participants at least 18 years old.

Among them, 3,128 persons had children aged between 12 and 17 years. 6,455 adults completed the SpringStyles survey. Almost 4,085 adults answered the survey, including a YouthStyles portion, which was responded to by 1,751 adolescents and completed by 833 adolescents aged between 12 and 17 years.

The study measured the frequency of SSB intake by adolescents using a self-reported question that queried the number of times they consumed sodas, sports or energy drinks, fruit drinks, and other SSBs in the past seven days.

The response options for the survey included none, one to six times each week, once a day, twice a day, thrice a day, and four or more times each day. The researchers established three distinct categories of consumption frequencies of none, one to six times per week, and one or more times per day to evaluate the consumption of SSB daily.

Results

Over 800 adolescents were included in the study, with over half being male and over 12 and 14 years. The majority were non-Hispanic White, while 81% had parents who were married or in a domestic partnership.

The team noted that over a third of parents consumed SSBs at least twice daily. Most adolescents know that consuming SSBs can lead to weight gain, cavities, and diabetes. However, a smaller percentage of adolescents recognized that drinking SSBs can contribute to high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, and certain cancers.

The team found that the association between cavities and SSB intake varied based on factors such as adolescent age, race or ethnicity, sex, parents' race or ethnicity, and census regions of residence. The association between weight gain and SSB intake varied significantly based on factors such as adolescent and parent race or ethnicity and marital status.

The association between diabetes and SSB intake varied based on factors such as the adolescent's race or ethnicity, the parent's age and race or ethnicity, and the region of residence according to census data.

The association between high blood pressure and SSB intake varied based on factors such as adolescent race or ethnicity and parents' sex, race or ethnicity, and SSB intake. The association between high cholesterol and SSB intake varied significantly based on the race or ethnicity of the adolescent and their parents.

Furthermore, the association between SSB intake and heart disease varied based on adolescent sex and parents' age, sex, and marital status. The association between SSB intake and certain cancers varied significantly depending on the gender of the parent.

Conclusion

The study findings showed that awareness of health risks associated with SSBs among American teenagers differed depending on the condition, with knowledge ranging from 18% for certain cancers to 75% for weight gain and cavities.

Adolescents associate cavities, diabetes, and weight gain with drinking SSB, but they are less likely to link high blood pressure, heart disease, high cholesterol, and certain cancers to SSB consumption.

Unawareness of the link between SSB consumption and weight gain, heart disease, and certain cancers raised the likelihood of daily SSB consumption.

The researchers believe that intervention measures could prioritize enhancing specific knowledge that may impact the consumption of SSBs among young people to promote their well-being.

Journal reference:
Bhavana Kunkalikar

Written by

Bhavana Kunkalikar

Bhavana Kunkalikar is a medical writer based in Goa, India. Her academic background is in Pharmaceutical sciences and she holds a Bachelor's degree in Pharmacy. Her educational background allowed her to foster an interest in anatomical and physiological sciences. Her college project work based on ‘The manifestations and causes of sickle cell anemia’ formed the stepping stone to a life-long fascination with human pathophysiology.

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