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Drinking Less Water Is Linked To Obesity In Kids: Study

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Among kids, drinking less water likely leads to consumption of more sugary drinks, which has long been tied to obesity, a new survey revealed.

About one in every five children in the United States don't drink water at all, and those who lack water consumption end up consuming almost twice as many calories from sugary drinks, researchers said.

The findings of the survey warn that the extra calories from sugary drinks over time can increase the risk for childhood obesity.

American Kids Drink Less Water And Consume More Sugary Drinks

A team of researchers collected data from the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 2011 and 2012 as well as between 2015 and 2016.

In the surveys, nearly 8,400 children aged 2 to 19 reported whether they drank water each day and how much of sugary beverages they regularly drank. Sugary beverages included sweetened fruit juices, energy drinks, sports drinks, non-diet sodas, and or presweetened tea and coffee.

The caveat is that the amount of water drank was not quantified. Drinks such as zero-calorie diet sodas, 100 percent fruit juices, and unsweetened tea or coffee were excluded in the survey.

Among one in every five American kids who did not drink water every day, the amount of calories they drank from sugary drinks totaled 200 on average, compared with 100 calories among those who drank water.

The results of the survey also varied by race. For instance, Caucasian kids who did not drink water were found to have consumed more extra calories from sugary beverages than Hispanic kids who did not drink water. The amount is 123 extra calories per day for Caucasian kids versus 61 extra calories per day for Hispanic kids.

Why Are Extra Calories Such A Big Deal?

Investigators from the Water, Health and Nutrition Laboratory at Pennsylvania State University said that packing in as much as 3,500 extra calories means gaining an extra pound among children. This means if kids drank at least 100 calories a day, they could gain that extra pound in just a month.

The good news is that the consumption of sugary beverages among American kids has actually dropped over the last 15 years. However, study author Asher Rosinger said that there are still some sub-populations that have high sugary drink consumption levels.

"It's critical to identify which kids are particularly at risk for high sugar-sweetened beverage intake, since this can lead to these negative health effects," explained Rosinger.

Children Should Drink Water Every day

Rosinger said drinking water is the healthiest beverage to drink, be it among kids or adults. He said water is an essential nutrient that is critical to proper cognitive and physiological functioning.

In contrast, sugary beverages are "problematic" because they have been linked to negative health conditions such as dental cavities, weight gain, and type 2 diabetes. Current guidelines recommend that parents should limit their kids' intake of added sugars to less than 10 percent of calories consumed.

"Kids should drink water every day, and it should be the first option [parents] go to when their kids are thirsty," urged Rosinger.

Details of the study have been issued in the journal JAMA Pediatrics. Because of its nature, the study does not establish a definite cause and effect between drinking less water and consuming more calories. The study only shows an association, experts said.

Photo: Castio T. Lauren | Flickr

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