Correlates of Sugar Consumption Among High School Students and Faculty

(1) San Francisco University High School, San Francisco, California
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The majority of Americans are overweight or obese, putting them at increased risk for high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and other adverse outcomes. Multiple factors contribute to this trend, including the increased availability and portion size of Highly Palatable Food (HPF), which is defined by the combination of sugar, fat, and/or salt. Food addiction theory describes a cycle of ingesting sugary food, followed by insulin and dopamine responses that lead to increased cravings for HPF. With repeated exposure to HPF, some individuals become chronic over-consumers with a strong drive for this type of reward-based eating. This study sought to characterize the relationships between Reward-based Eating Drive (RED), consumption of HPF, cravings for sugary beverages, and knowledge of sugar’s effects on the brain and body in male and female high school students and faculty. Survey questions were uploaded to Surveymonkey and a link to the survey was sent to the listservs for all individuals with an email account at the high school. 176 anonymous responses were received. The results showed that reward-based eating drive was related to consumption and to cravings. For females, knowledge of sugar’s effects was significantly and inversely associated with consumption of sugary food. This finding suggests that public health interventions to increase knowledge of sugar’s adverse effects may be an avenue to decreasing consumption of HPF, ultimately decreasing the proportion of overweight and obese individuals, especially in young women.

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