"Sodabriety" Challenge Successful at Cutting Teen Sugar Intake


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Obesity is now known as an epidemic (and a disease) by the U.S. healthcare community, and the problem can largely be attributed to the abundance of sugar in the average American diet. Among the many sugary options available to American consumers, sugary drinks such as soda can be easily pinpointed as a major source of unneeded calories from sugar.

Some choice cities throughout the U.S. have already tried to ban or tax sugary drinks to encourage healthier lifestyles. These initiatives have been largely failures for one reason or another, but a new study shows that a bit of education and a challenge could be all that is needed for people to change their ways.

The study, published in the Journal of School Health, shows that a program called the "Sodabriety" challenge has actually been successful at lowering teens' consumption of sugary drinks.

The program was set up by Ohio State University researchers and rolled out to two rural high schools in the Appalachian region. It challenged teens to design their own marketing campaigns against sugary drinks. The objective was to encourage students to cut back on their soda consumption for one month.

Student advisory councils were set up to run the campaigns, which involved school assemblies and daily messages over school intercoms. The students themselves chose the goal of promoting soda cut-backs rather than cold-turkey elimination.

The study following up on the program shows that teems at the participating high schools actually did cut back on drinking sugary beverages. The total number of teens at the schools who cut out sugary drinks completely rose to 11.8% from the 7.2% who were already abstaining from the drinks at the outset of the project. Overall the study found a 30% reduction in the number of days per week that the teens reported drinking sugary drinks.

Incredibly, this percentage persisted for at least one more month after the program had ended. In addition, the study's authors found that water consumption among the teens rose significantly as a result of the program, despite water not being a part of the "Sodabriety" efforts.

"The students' water consumption before the intervention was lousy," said Laureen Smith, lead author of the study and an associate professor of nursing at Ohio State. "I don't know how else to say it. But we saw a big improvement in that. And there was a huge reduction in sugar-sweetened beverage consumption. The kids were consuming them fewer days per week and when they were consuming these drinks, they had fewer servings."

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