Two years after Boston schools prohibited the sale of sugar-sweetened beverages like sodas and sports drinks, local high school students were consuming significantly fewer sugary drinks, according to a new study published in Preventing Chronic Disease. In contrast, the average consumption of sugary beverages did not decline among teens nationwide. This is the first major study to show a significant decline in consumption of unhealthy beverages following a school policy change.
Beginning in the 2004–05 school year, the Boston School Committee prohibited public schools in the city from selling soft drinks, fruit drinks and sports drinks anywhere in school buildings or on campus. Researchers tracked sugar-sweetened beverage consumption among students in grades 9–12 for two years and found a significant decrease—from 1.71 average servings per day in 2004 to 1.38 servings in 2006. This reduction, roughly 45 fewer calories per day, included students’ total daily consumption of such drinks, both during and outside of the school day. A serving was defined as one can or glass, with a 20-ounce bottle counting as two servings. (Click here to read the entire study.)
“This study shows that a very simple policy change can have a big impact on student behavior,” said Angie Cradock, senior research scientist at the Harvard School of Public Health and the study’s lead author. “It also shows that when students couldn’t get these unhealthy beverages in school, they didn’t necessarily buy them elsewhere.”