Think nothing gets through to teenagers when it comes to making better dietary choices? Try telling the texting, video-game-playing, sofa-bound generation what it'll take to burn off the calories in one of their favorite soft drinks and they will run -- not walk, run! -- for the bottle of water beside it, a new study suggests.
A message that required a bit more calculation -- the percentage of daily calorie intake a soda represents -- also succeeded in discouraging the purchase of sugar-sweetened beverages. But the study, published Tuesday in the American Journal of Public Health, found that translating those calories into time on the track had the greatest effect.
The new research was conducted at corner stores in low-income, predominantly African American neighborhoods of Baltimore. Between April and October 2011, researchers from Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg School of Public Health and Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health set out to explore whether and how teenagers living in those communities responded to different messages about the calories in beverage choices.
After gathering data on teens' usual beverage purchasing behavior at small markets within a few blocks of high schools or middle schools, researchers posted one of three different signs prominently near the refrigerator where beverages were held. The signs rotated through each store for several weeks, with periods in between when no signs were posted. And researchers waited and watched, collecting data on teen purchasers and their choices.