Childhood obesity, which affects both kids and teenagers, is one of the top concerns among parents in the United States.
In 2015, a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that about one in every five children in the United States is suffering from obesity.
While the obesity epidemic in the country is remaining steady, some states still have high obesity rates. According to the CDC, more than 30 percent of adults in 25 states were considered obese, while the rate for kids was 17 percent.
With that, many experts have been looking for effective ways to help kids and adults lose weight and reduce obesity rates. One of the measures that experts have found beneficial is by offering "water jets" in school cafeterias.
How Water Can Help Combat Obesity
Using water to combat obesity doesn't require any medication or state-of-the-art technology, but fresh and clean water is definitely a must.
About seven years ago, experts in New York City first installed inexpensive water dispensers or water jets that provided filtered water in schools. These electronically powered water jets were clear and large, and contained a push lever for dispensing water.
Each water jet is worth about $1,000, experts said. About 40 percent of schools in the city received a water jet during the academic years 2008-2009 through 2012-2013.
Now, in a new study focusing on the effects of water jets, a team of researchers -- from different affiliates of New York University such as NYU Langone, as well as from Syracuse University -- found that installing water jets resulted in moderate but significant levels of weight loss in children.
"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," said Dr. Brian Elbel, senior investigator of the study.
Elbel said that their findings, which are featured in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, suggest that the relatively low-cost intervention is indeed working.
Increasing Water Consumption
Before the installation of water jets, public schools in New York City were no longer allowed to sell sweetened beverages. Replacing them instead are self-serving water jets that allowed the easy access to water during lunch.
This easy access to water may lead kids to substitute it for sweetened beverages such as juice, soda and milk, researchers said.
In fact, a 2015 study by Elbel and his colleagues discovered that water consumption by kids had increased three times just three months after schools introduced water jets. Between academic years 2008 and 2013, milk purchases in cafeterias with water jets decreased by about 12 half-pint cartons for each student annually.
Why Are These Findings Important?
Professor Amy Ellen Schwartz of NYU's Institute for Education and Social Policy said reducing the amount of caloric beverage intake while at the same time increasing water consumption is vital in promoting children's health and lowering the prevalence of childhood obesity.
"Schools are a natural setting for such interventions," said Schwartz.
Researchers of the new study said that just about 40 percent of kids in New York City are obese.
Along with installation of water jets, officials in the city enacted policies to fight against obesity and support children's health by improving nutrition standards, removing soda from vending machines, expanding vegetable and fruit offerings and replacing whole milk with low-fat milk.