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No pop in schools makes no difference: study

Banning the sale of pop in schools appears to make no difference on how many sugary drinks kids consume, according to a new study published in the journal Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

With obesity levels on the rise among kids, and with kids getting a large amount of their calories from sugary drinks, some people have thought that curbing soda sales in schools would compel kids to cut down on their consumption.

But, as it turns out, in order for a ban to be effective it must go all the way. As the study showed, if pop is banned at school, kids will simply opt for a sports drink instead, which are often just as high in sugar.

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"Our study adds to a growing body of literature that suggests that to be effective, school-based policy interventions must be comprehensive," the authors said in a release. "States that only ban soda, while allowing other beverages with added caloric sweeteners, appear to be no more successful at reducing adolescents' sugar-sweetened beverage access and purchasing within school than states that take no action at all."

The study looked at 6,900 students from public schools in 40 U.S. states. The students were sampled in 2004 and 2007, when they were in grade five and grade eight.

Researchers found that 28. 9 per cent of students in schools that banned only soda still bought sugary drinks, which was barely more than the 26 per cent of kids who purchased sugary drinks at schools where no bans exist.

But it looks like it might be up to parents, not schools, to keep kids from guzzling pop, sports drinks or other sugar drinks. Researchers also found that even in schools where all sugary drinks are banned outright, students' overall consumption did not drop, suggesting that they merely went elsewhere for their fix. If they can't get it on campus, they'll go to the corner store for a Coke instead.

Daniel R. Taber, an author of the study and a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Illinois at Chicago, told the New York Times that banning sugary drinks entirely could only go so far.

More policies to attack the problem, such as beverage taxes, are needed, he said.

"The laws did exactly what they were designed to do," he said. "They were designed to reduce kids' access to sweetened beverages in schools, but you can't expect schools to do it all on their own.

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About the Author

Dave McGinn writes about fitness trends for the Life section and also reports for Globe Arts. Prior to joining the Globe, he was a freelance journalist, covering topics from trying to eat Michael Phelps' diet to why the Joker is the best villain in comics history. He's working on improving his 10k time. More

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