It's no secret that drinking too much Coke or Gatorade can add inches to kids' waistlines. But where they get those drinks might make a difference in how much they drink them.
A recent study found that children were much more likely to drink more sugar-sweetened beverages if they got them at school or at home.
Kids were three times more likely to drink five or more sugary drinks each week if they had access to the drinks at school.
The researchers concluded that limiting access to sugary drinks might be one component in preventing obesity.
The study, led by Lana Hebden, a research officer at the School for Public Health at the University of Sydney in Australia, looked at how many sugar-sweetened beverages school students drank.
The researchers used the 2010 New South Wales Schools Physical Activity and Nutrition Survey to analyze the results from 8,058 participating students.
They divided the consumption of sugary beverages into three groups: low (no more than one cup a week), moderate (2-4 cups a week) or high (5 or more cups a week). Sugary beverages included soft drinks and sports drinks.
Overall, 46 percent of the students were low consumers, 31 percent were moderate consumers and 23 percent were high consumers. More of the boys (26 percent) were high consumers than girls (19 percent) were.
Then the researchers looked at the availability of sugar-sweetened beverages in the students' homes and schools.
The results showed that children from kindergarten through 10th grade (ages 4 to 16) were three times more likely than other kids to be high consumers of sugary drinks if they bought their drinks from school.
Among those in sixth grade through tenth grade (ages 9 to 16), the likelihood that they would be high consumers was more than four and a half times higher if they had soft drinks in their home.
The sixth graders through tenth graders were almost ten times more likely to be high consumers of sugary drinks if they typically drank them with their meals at home.
The researchers concluded that reducing access to sugar-sweetened beverages might help in preventing obesity.
"Limiting the availability of sugar-sweetened beverages in the home and school environments is a prudent response to address high sugar-sweetened beverage consumption among school students, albeit only part of the solution for obesity prevention," the researchers wrote.
This research also matches up with past research finding that 60 percent of the sugar-sweetened beverages that kids drink are in their homes.
Deborah Gordon, MD, a dailyRx expert specializing in nutrition, said the results of the study are a bit frustrating.
"Although increased consumption is noted among those students who were frequent soda purchasers, it is not at all clear that restricting school access would decrease their overall consumption," Dr. Gordon said. "It might just restrict their school consumption. It's kind of like forbidding drugs in half a city, not the whole city — would it really cut down use?"
She said the findings only hint at part of the problem in combatting obesity as well.
"The message to consume less sweetened beverages is an excellent one, but until the phobia of fat allows sugar restrictions to be compensated for with satiety-inducing fats, such as whole milk, it is unlikely that we will achieve our goals of reducing sugar intake and obesity," Dr. Gordon said.
The study was published in the June issue of the journal Preventive Medicine. The research was funded by the New South Wales Ministry of Health. The authors declared no conflicts of interest.