Americans purchase more soft drinks than any other country in the world. A typical 20-ounce soda contains 15 to 18 teaspoons of sugar. That’s 5 to 8 teaspoons more than your body needs from all the carbohydrates you eat in a day! In other words—soda contains way too much sugar. And it shows. Increased consumption of sugary drinks is a major contributor to the obesity epidemic. But that’s not all.

Soft drink consumption has been linked to aggression, depression, and suicidal thoughts in adolescents, and a recent study published in The Journal of Pediatrics found that aggression, attention problems, and withdrawal behavior are linked to soft drink consumption in young children as well. The study involved 3,000 5-year olds, 43 percent of whom drank at least one serving of soda daily. Four percent consumed four or more servings!

The researchers adjusted the study for factors that might interfere with the results, and they still found that any soft drink consumption at all was linked to increased aggressive behavior. Those children who drank four or more sodas daily were more than twice as likely to destroy others’ possessions, get into fights, and physically attack people, as well as had increased attention problems and withdrawal behaviors when compared to those children who did not consume soft drinks. “We found that the child’s aggressive behavior score increased with every increase in soft drink servings per day,” stated Shakira Suglia, ScD, lead researcher.

Soft drinks are one of those beverages that are single handedly taking down the health of the developing world. Our consumption of these drinks is out of control. I recommended completely avoiding soda. If you like the carbonated beverage feel, get a soda-water-making machine and add a splash of lime and juice. That should do it. Children will also enjoy this refreshing soda alternative, although they may have to adjust to a less-sweet drink if they regularly drink sodas.