Installing school water fountains, distributing water bottles in classrooms, and teaching the health benefits of water consumption can lower kids' risk for becoming overweight, according to a new study.
About 3,000 second- and third-graders in Germany were weighed and asked about what they drank. In some of their schools, water fountains were added, kids got personal water bottles to fill at the start of the day, and teachers received lesson plans with health messages about the pluses of drinking water.
At the end of the school year, kids in schools where water drinking was encouraged were 31% less likely to be overweight than those in schools where water consumption wasn't encouraged.
Acknowledging that "Drinking fountains won't solve the obesity epidemic, but could be effective components of the solution," the researchers also note that other studies have suggested that drinking water increases the rate at which calories are burned and might temporarily decrease appetite.
What This Means to You
Water, vital to so many body functions, is constantly lost from sweating, exercise, and urination and must be replaced often.
Reports that increased water consumption might play a role in preventing obesity in kids is just one more reason to encourage your kids to drink plenty of water. Everyone needs to stay hydrated for good health, and for kids and adults, drinking enough water is the best way to do that — plus, it contains no calories.
Soda isn't recommended as a fluid source since it contains lots of sugar, which can lead to weight gain. Plus, the carbonation can upset a child's stomach and many contain caffeine, which can have other undesirable health effects. Sports drinks, vitamin waters, fruit drinks, and energy drinks also can pack a big caloric punch.
Your best bet is always good old water. While there's no magic amount that kids should drink every day, try serving it with meals and make sure that kids who are thirsty drink up. In warm weather and when they're exercising or playing, they'll need even more.
Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: April 2009
Source: "Promotion and Provision of Drinking Water in Schools for Overweight Prevention: Randomized, Controlled Cluster Trial." Pediatrics, April 2009.