The Twinkie Defense: Teen Drinking and Violence

Having been a soda-holic at one point in my life… okay, let’s be honest for most of my adult life… I found this article on the consumption of sugary soda highly interesting. Now my drinking habit fell in the diet drink category, rather than the non-diet drink, but I definitely was addicted to the carbonation. So maybe my violent urges were curbed because I consumed the diet version of the bubbly elixir rather than the leaded variety. But, the premise that the article starts off with of non-diet sodas being linked to obesity is true, but diet sodas are also linked to obesity. So maybe the scope of the study was too narrow to have the full picture.

Basically what the article boils down to is that teens who consume five or more sodas per week are more likely to exhibit violent behavior and carry guns and/or knives and significantly more likely to have consumed alcohol or smoked. Unfortunately, they didn’t put a number around the potential for alcohol consumption likelihood, or the smoking, so we’re left to wonder what “significantly” works out to in real-world terms. They did however put a number against the potential for a teen to carry either a knife or a gun. If a teen consumes 14 or more sodas of the sugary variety per week (two per day or more for those who do not like to do the math), then they are 20% more likely to carry a knife or a gun. Actually, the alarming fact in the article to me was not that carrying weapons increases by 20% when someone is a high soda consumer, but that 23% of those polled carry either a knife or a gun on a regular basis. 23%!!!!! I see that I am going to have to rethink some of my characters and start including more who carry weapons.

It is also mentioned in the article that the high consumption of soda (more than five per week) has the same impact on the behavior in teens as alcohol, when it comes to an increase in violent behavior raising the potential from 9%-15% over those who do not consume sodas. Sara J. Solnick and David Hemenway of The University of Vermont and Harvard School of Public Health respectively, concluded that, “The influence of soft drink consumption on violence appears to be a ‘dose-response’ relationship, with effects visible at low levels of consumption and increasing with greater consumption.” Will this lead to pleas in court of “…it wasn’t my fault, Your Honor, I drank soda and couldn’t help myself.”?

Actually, the first thing that came to mind after reading the article was how interesting a study of soda consumption among authors and whether there is a correlation to the amount of suffering they inflict on their characters would be. Followed by the thought that we may need to start including soda consumption as a character trait prior to violent episodes.

4 Comments on “The Twinkie Defense: Teen Drinking and Violence”

  1. Interesting article, LK, but I’d definitely think twice about reworking your fiction. First, it was a survey of youth in Boston public schools, and only 22 of them, at that. I wonder whether the findings were skewed by socioeconomic status, and the poorer diet of many inner city teens.

    Also, depending on teens to report whether they carry weapons? Can you discount the “I’ll make myself out to be a badass” factor? Cuz I can’t. When I was young and admittedly stupid, I’d’ve lied on an anonymous survey to make myself feel more hardcore than I actually was (which wasn’t very hardcore). I have to wonder if some of the males in that survey did too.

    Anyway, I don’t drink soda. I get all my violent impulses from other beverages. 🙂

    1. Actually, believe it or not, (and I’m sure you will), I think the “badass” factor is probably more of the results than the surveyors counted on, because in my youth I used to carry a knife… not because of soda consumption, but strictly for the bravado of it. My thought for reworking fiction was more along the lines of “wow – that could be an interesting story thread which could totally spiral out of control if I nudged it.”

      And I also felt the sampling was too small to have accurate results. Just an interesting thing to make the brain generate more stories.

  2. That’s interesting! Recently going sugar/wheat free, I know that if I (slip up) consume too much sugar, I start to have mood swings, problems focusing, and just am plain not nice to be around.

    If I was a hormonal out of wack teenager, maybe I’d be prone to violence. Hard to say. I remember being a teenager and doing dangerous things (weapons, boozing on the bus) for the sake of being dangerous. I just didn’t want to be a good girl anymore. Bad me, I know.

    1. I think there is a little bit of both things going on… one is that there could be some side effects of the chemicals in soda, and second is that yes… the thrill of the walk on the wild side holds a lot of allure… even if we only think we’re wild. 😉

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