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Awareness of and reactions to the health harms of sugary drinks: An online study of U.S. parents

Author

Appetite. 2021 Sep 1;164:105234. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2021.105234. Epub 2021 Apr 3.

Alexandra E Carl 1Lindsey Smith Taillie 2Anna H Grummon 3Allison J Lazard 4Isabella C A Higgins 5Jennifer Mendel Sheldon 6Marissa G Hall 7

Author Information

1 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Gillings School of Global Public Health, Department of Health Behavior, 135 Dauer Dr., Chapel Hill, NC, 27599, United States. Electronic address: alexacarl@live.com.

2 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Gillings School of Global Public Health, Department of Nutrition, 135 Dauer Dr., Chapel Hill, NC, 27599, United States; University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Carolina Population Center, 123 W Franklin St., Chapel Hill, NC, 27516, United States. Electronic address: taillie@unc.edu.

3 Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies, Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, 9 Bow Street, Cambridge, MA 02138, United States. Electronic address: agrummon@hsph.harvard.edu.

4 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, 101 Manning Dr., Chapel Hill, NC, 27514, United States; University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Hussman School of Journalism and Media, Carroll Hall, CB 3365, Chapel Hill, NC, 27599, United States. Electronic address: lazard@unc.edu.

5 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Carolina Population Center, 123 W Franklin St., Chapel Hill, NC, 27516, United States. Electronic address: ihiggins@email.unc.edu.

6 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, 101 Manning Dr., Chapel Hill, NC, 27514, United States. Electronic address: jrmendel@email.unc.edu.

7 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Gillings School of Global Public Health, Department of Health Behavior, 135 Dauer Dr., Chapel Hill, NC, 27599, United States; University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, 101 Manning Dr., Chapel Hill, NC, 27514, United States. Electronic address: mghall@unc.edu.

Abstract

Evidence about the health problems associated with sugary drink consumption is well-established. However, little is known about which sugary drink health harms are most effective at changing consumers' behavior. We aimed to identify which harms people were aware of and most discouraged them from wanting to buy sugary drinks. Participants were a national convenience sample of diverse parents (n = 1,058), oversampled for Latino parents (48%). Participants rated a list of sugary drink-related health harms occurring in children (7 harms) and in adults (15 harms). Outcomes were awareness of each harm and how much each harm discouraged parents from wanting to purchase sugary drinks. Most participants were aware that sugary drinks contribute to tooth decay in children (75%) and weight gain in both children (73%) and adults (69%). Few participants were aware that sugary drinks contribute to adult infertility (16%), arthritis (18%), and gout (18%). All health harms were rated highly in terms of discouraging parents from wanting to buy sugary drinks (range: 3.59-4.11 on a 1-5 scale), with obesity, pre-diabetes, and tooth decay eliciting the highest discouragement ratings. Harm-induced discouragement was higher for participants who were aware of more health harms (B = 0.05, p < 0.0001), identified as female (B = 0.15 compared to male, p = 0.02), or had an annual household income of $50,000 or more (B = 0.16 compared to less than $50,000, p = 0.03). These findings suggest health messages focused on a variety of health harms could raise awareness and discourage sugary drink purchases.