More TV, smartphone time means more sugary drinks for teens

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Electronic devices may encourage teens to drink more sugary and caffeinated beverages.
Electronic devices may encourage teens to drink more sugary and caffeinated beverages.

Teens who stay glued to screens, be it televisions or electronic devices, are not only getting less exercise – they're more likely to down too many sugary, caffeinated drinks, according to a new study.

Researchers analysed data from more than 32 400 US students in grades eight and 10. They found that more than 27% exceeded recommended sugar intake and 21% exceeded recommended caffeine intake from soda and energy drinks.

Greater electronic device use

Males consumed more sodas and energy drinks than females, and grade eight students consumed more than grade 10 students.

Overall, there was a decline in soda and energy drink consumption between 2013 and 2016, but greater use of electronic devices, particularly TV, was associated with higher consumption of both.

"There is a trend towards reduced energy drink and soda consumption between 2013 and 2016 which is our latest data, but greater electronic device use, particularly TV, is linked to more consumption of added sugar and caffeine among adolescents," said study co-leader Dr Katherine Morrison, a professor of paediatrics at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada.

An additional hour per day of TV was linked with a 32% higher risk of exceeding World Health Organization recommendations for sugar, and with a 28% increased risk of exceeding WHO caffeine recommendations.

Each hour a day of talking on a cellphone or using social media was also associated with increased risk of exceeding both added sugar and caffeine recommendations, according to the study.

"Addressing this [higher sugar and caffeine consumption] through counselling or health promotion could potentially help," Morrison said in a university news release.

Marketing campaigns

The researchers were surprised to find only a weak link between video game use and higher caffeine consumption.

"Given the marketing campaigns that target video gamers, we expected a particularly strong association between caffeine intake from energy drinks or sodas with video game use, but TV was linked more strongly," Morrison said.

The researchers also found that using a computer for school was associated with a lower risk of exceeding recommended levels of sugar consumption.

The study findings were published in the journal PLOS ONE.

Both sugar-sweetened and artificially sweetened drinks are connected with obesity, diabetes, dental cavities and poor sleep. Too much caffeine is associated with headaches, higher blood pressure, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, chest pain and poor sleep.

Image credit: iStock

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