Public Release: 

New risk analysis study shows school soft drink consumption has no impact on adolescent obesity

Strategic Communications

WASHINGTON, D.C.--A first-of-its-kind peer-reviewed study applying risk analysis methodology to nutrition policy shows that consumption of carbonated soft drinks from school vending machines has virtually no impact on adolescent obesity.

The study appears in the October issue of the journal Risk Analysis. It was authored by Dr. Richard Forshee and Dr. Maureen Storey of the Center for Food, Nutrition, and Agriculture Policy at The University of Maryland--College Park, and Dr. Michael Ginevan of Exponent in Washington, DC.

Dr. Forshee said, "Using the very best data and applying a worst-case scenario of soft drink consumption from school vending machines demonstrates that the impact of soft drink consumption from school vending machines on body mass index (BMI) is minimal. In our view, these data show a very modest impact, if any, on adolescent overweight."

The paper, titled "A Risk Analysis Model of the Relationship between Beverage Consumption from School Vending Machines and Risk of Adolescent Overweight," used two federally-funded data sets and one data set from the National Family Opinion consumer research firm to estimate consumption of soft drinks from vending machines. The results showed that the overall impact of carbonated soft drink consumption from vending machines on adolescent BMI is very modest and that consumption ranged from about 0.5 to 2.0 oz/day depending on the data set. Consumption of regular soft drinks from school vending machines would be expected to have very little, if any, impact on BMI in adolescents.

For the first time, the authors used the National Academies of Science's risk assessment paradigm to evaluate nutrition and health issues, in this case soft drink consumption from vending machines in schools, and the potential impact on public health, specifically adolescent overweight. This paradigm uses a four-step risk assessment process: hazard identification, dose-response assessment, exposure assessment, and risk characterization.

Forshee said, "Risk analysis, although widely used in studies on the risk of exposure to carcinogens, work place safety and food safety, has to our knowledge never before been applied to nutrition policy issues. We chose this topic because we wanted to apply the risk analysis paradigm to an important and controversial topic in nutrition policy. We suggest that risk analysis should be applied more often to inform debates on nutrition policy."

The authors followed rigorous scientific procedures in the preparation and publication of the study. The manuscript underwent careful peer review at an appropriate journal, the data are publicly available, the methods are clearly described, and any interested scientist may replicate the analysis.

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Editor's Note: Copies of the Abstract and Journal article are available on a PDF file upon request or by contacting: JournalNews@bos.blackwellpublishing.netor (781) 388-8448.

The Center for Food, Nutrition, and Agriculture Policy (CFNAP) is an independent research and education center affiliated with the University of Maryland--College Park. The mission of CFNAP is to advance rational, science-based food, nutrition, and agriculture policy. Through its research, outreach, and teaching programs, CFNAP examines complex and oftentimes contentious issues facing government policymakers, regulators, agribusinesses, and food manufacturers.

Exponent, Inc. is a scientific and engineering consulting firm providing solutions to complex problems. Exponent's multidisciplinary organization of scientists, physicians, engineers, and regulatory consultants brings together more than 70 technical disciplines to address complicated issues facing industry and government today.

The research paper was supported by an unrestricted gift from the American Beverage Association. In accordance with the policy of the Center for Food, Nutrition, and Agriculture Policy, the sponsor had no control or input into the design, methodologies, data, analysis, results, conclusions, or the decision to publish. The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the ABA, the University of Maryland--College Park, or Exponent, Inc.

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