Soda Less Available in School But Unhealthy Sports Drinks Remain A Sticky Problem

A new study indicates that access to soft drinks over the past five years has dropped by half in middle and high schools.

Unhealthy sports drinks are available across the U.S. to 83 percent and 55 percent of high school and middle school students, respectively. (Photo: Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Aug 7, 2012
Kelly Zhou has written on a variety of topics for TakePart, predominantly politics, education, and wildlife.

Fewer students can buy sodas in middle and high school these days, but other sugar-packed beverages like sports drinks are still broadly available, according to a new study from the University of Michigan.

“Our study shows that, although schools are making progress, far too many students still are surrounded by a variety of unhealthy beverages at school,” Yvonne Terry-McElrath, lead author of the study and a researcher from the University of Michigan, said in a statement.

Recently published in the journal Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, the study surveyed principals from about 1,400 middle and 1,500 high schools regarding the availability of different beverages on campus.

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The availability of soft drinks at both middle and high schools has dropped by half from 2006 to 2011. In the 2006-2007 school year, 54 percent of high school students had access to sugary soft drinks, which dropped to 25 percent last year. But sports drinks are still heavily available in school, reaching 83 percent of high schoolers — down from 90 percent six years ago.

While many schools and states across the country have made an effort to ban or limit the availability of unhealthy sugar-laden food and drinks, the study indicates that there is still plenty of room for improvement in our schools’ vending machines and snack bars. Healthier alternatives widely available to students at school include bottled water, 100 percent fruit juices, and low-fat milks.

“The progress being made to remove sugary sodas from our nation’s middle and high schools is encouraging,” said C. Tracy Orleans, Ph.D., senior scientist at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which funded the study. “But … It’s critically important for the USDA to set strong standards for competitive foods and beverages to help ensure that all students across all grades have healthy choices at school.”

Do you think access to sports drinks should be limited in schools, or are we being too hard on what our kids guzzle in class? Let us know in the comments.

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