A new study has revealed that divorce fuels sugary beverage consumption.
San Francisco State University found that children of recently separated or divorced families are likelier to drink sugar-sweetened beverages than children in families where the parents are married, putting them at higher risk for obesity later in life, according to a new study from.
Maintaining family routines, however, can protect children during divorce against developing unhealthy eating habits, researchers found, indicating that families can go a long way toward promoting their children's health during times of family transition. Shared routines like carving out time to talk each day or sitting down to eat together appear to guard children following divorce.
Lead researcher Jeff Cookston said that when families separate, one of the things that is most impacted for kids is their day-to-day routines as children are looking for consistency in their family environment, and family routines provide that security and continuity.
The study is the first to examine the real-time eating habits of divorced and married families, rather than rely on family members' recollections of past meals or behavior.
Researchers found that divorce did not appear to have a major impact on other unhealthful behaviors such as skipping breakfast or eating dinner outside the home.
The reason, Cookston says, is that drinking sugary beverages are quite pleasurable and accessible. The brain reacts with a great deal of enjoyment when we have a soda or energy drink and also doesn't involve much thinking, except for the decision to purchase them or bring them into the house.
Cookston said drinking sugary beverages is one of the two things, along with the increase in carbohydrate consumption, that they've identified as strongly associated with the obesity epidemic in the U.S.
The good news, Cookston said, is that routines can be modified. If a family recognizes that an activity is important, they will be more willing to adjust their schedules to make time for it.
The study is published online in Childhood Obesity.