There’s a post on the NYTimes Well blog that points to a study that purports to show that encouraging children to drink water leads to good health outcomes:
Adding school water fountains, distributing water bottles in classrooms and teaching kids about the health benefits of water can lower a child’s risk for becoming overweight, a new study shows.
… At the beginning of the study, there were no statistical differences in the prevalence of overweight kids in the different groups. By the end of the school year, however, children in the schools where water drinking was encouraged were 30 percent less likely to be overweight.
Then, later, this:
Why the water intervention influenced weight risk among the schoolchildren isn’t entirely clear. Overall, the study didn’t show statistically meaningful differences in body mass index scores or overall consumption of sugary beverages. However, juice consumption did appear to drop slightly in the water group.
Well, that’s probably it right there. The way the study measured “consumption of sugary beverages” was from self-reporting by the kids, so you can throw that right out the window. But fruit juices, like soft drinks, are pretty much the worst thing you can consume, metabolically speaking. And it seems likely that if children are being pumped full of water they’re less likely to be drinking other beverages.
So my take, in short, is that if this study has any validity, the water project worked because the excess drinking of water meant that these kids drank less of everything else, most of which is bad.
Also, the study doesn’t mention what it was, exactly, that they were telling the children about “the health benefits of water.” I’d love to know.
Rather than propagandizing them on the supposed benefits of excess water consumption, how much easier would it be just tell kids to avoid fruit juice and soft drinks?
(And yeah, I know that “eight glasses a day” and the like was already a health fad. But this looks like this could shape up to be a separate albeit related childhood health fad.)