Schoolchildren drink fewer soft drinks; on the other hand, they’ve discovered energy drinks, say Olomouc researchers

Illustrational photo:
friday 8. march 2019, 8:00 – Text: (red)

During the last twelve years the number of Czech schoolchildren who drink soft drinks daily has decreased by half. However, more than one-tenth of young Czechs have a tendency to consume energy drinks. This is the finding of researchers from Palacký University, who have been conducting ongoing research into the lifestyle of children and youths.

In 2006, almost one-third of school children aged 11–15 consumed soft drinks daily. Since then, the number has decreased to less than half that number. “Specifically, this means 14% of children in that age range. This positive trend is confirmed by our research, carried out at four-year intervals,” said Michal Kalman, the head of the research team at the Faculty of Physical Culture. But soft drinks are something they will concern themselves with further. They are still popular with adults, and their consumption is one of the factors contributing to obesity, tooth decay, and other health problems.

New trend?
Olomouc researchers have also set their sights on energy drinks. While more than half of youths do not consume such drinks, there does exist a numerous group of those who do often reach for a can whenever they need a “jolt”. Between the ages of 13–15, roughly every tenth Czech pupil regularly consumes energy drinks.

“In absolute numbers, we’re talking about 30,000 young people who are potentially threatened by a number of health risks connected with increased consumption of these drinks – such as higher blood pressure, heart attacks, arrhythmia, behavioural changes, aggression and depression,” warns Kalman. The imaginary line which young people who consume energy drinks have to cross for it to be a problem is usually placed at drinking one such drink per week. The Olomouc study is less strict in this sense, setting the borderline at two drinks per week.

Regional differences
The research report also looked at differences between regions. Just as in the case of other risky forms of behaviour, consumption of energy drinks is highest in Czechia in northern Bohemia. The worst is the Ústí nad Labem region, where on average every fifth schoolchild regularly consumes energy drinks. There are also high numbers found in the Liberec and Karlovy Vary regions. On the other hand, Prague children buy the least amount of such drinks (7.7%).

The researchers in Kalman’s team also noted that frequent drinking of energy drinks and soft drinks weighs is connected with other factors characteristic of risky behaviour in schoolchildren – mainly smoking, repeated drunkenness, and marihuana consumption. “This is why the HBSC (Health Behaviour in School-aged Children) study is so important. Researching the lifestyle of the young generation from many angles and searching for mutual connections,” said Kalman.

The team, which has long been following and commenting on the factors influencing the health of Czech youth, has been investigating trends for schoolchildren aged 11, 13, and 15. Two hundred and fifty schools are involved in the current research project, with a total of 14,000 schoolchildren.

The HBSC study is looking at the overall lifestyle of the young generation. In addition to new data on soft drinks and energy drinks, it is researching the consumption of alcohol, smoking, consumption of marihuana, fitness activities, use of free time, relationships in school and with parents, and electronic communication. Selected data can be examined or downloaded thanks to a new web presentation, available here.