** Giving kids the option to drink water instead of milk or fizzy drinks can prevent weight gain and keep them healthy.
** Making water freely available in schools by placing water jets in school cafeterias resulted in a reduction in student weight, a new study that was conducted in public schools in New York City has found.
For the study, researchers assessed over 1 million students from 1227 schools across New York City comparing weight loss at schools with water dispensers to those at schools without. The report, which was recently published online in the journal, JAMA Pediatrics, is the first to reveal the link between the school water program and student weight loss.
"This study demonstrates that doing something as simple as providing free and readily available water to students may have positive impacts on their overall health, particularly weight management," says study senior investigator Brian Elbel, an associate professor in the Department of Population Health at NYU Langone and NYU Wagner Graduate School of Public Service."Our findings suggest that this relatively low-cost intervention is, in fact, working."
The school water program was implemented in New York City schools in 2009, where large, electrically-powered water jets that dispensed water out of clear jugs by the push of a lever, were installed into schools across the city. At a cost of $1000 each, roughly 40% of schools were issued a water jet during the course of this study, which ran from the 2008/9 school year through to 2012/3 school year.
The researchers analyzed height/weight data of students recorded by schools annually to determine student fitness levels, and compared body mass index (BMI) and weight status of all the students before water jets were introduced. They then reassessed these measurements after water jets were installed. The results show a change for the better: Compared to students at schools that didn't have water jets, students from schools where water jets had been installed for at least 3 months showed a reduced BMI — a reduction of between 0.22 (girls) - 0.25 (boys). Students were also between 0.6% (girls) - 0.9% (boys) less likely to be overweight than children from schools that didn't have water jets installed.
The researchers conclude that making water readily available to children may lead them to opt for water instead of high calorie beverages such as flavored milk, fruit juice or soda. While New York City schools prohibited the sale of sugary beverages before the study began, students are still free to bring these onto school premises from other outside sources.
A previous study conducted by Dr Ebel found that after water jets were introduced to schools, water consumption tripled within 3 months, while milk consumption dropped.
According to lead author, Amy Ellen Schwartz, reducing the consumption of high calorie sugary beverages while simultaneously encouraging kids to drink water, is an important step in promoting children's health and decreasing childhood obesity, and school's provide the perfect setting for such an intervention.
Considering that just under 40% of New York City children are overweight, healthy lifestyle choices are essential to end this trend. To this end, the city has implemented various policies to combat childhood obesity and promote child health. Besides introducing water jets to public schools, the city is striving to improve nutrition standards by offering more fruit and vegetables and removing fizzy drinks from vending machines, and providing low-fat milk instead of full-cream milk.
If your child attends a school that does not have water jets installed you can still ensure that he or she has water freely available at all times. Pack a handy Sport Berkey Filter Bottle into your child's school bag and they can have a ready supply of healthy filtered water wherever they are.
Amy Ellen Schwartz, Michele Leardo, Siddhartha Aneja, Brian Elbel. Effect of a School-Based Water Intervention on Child Body Mass Index and Obesity. JAMA Pediatrics, 2016; 1 DOI: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2015.3778