Staying hydrated at school lowers the risk of childhood obesity, scientists have recently determined.
The findings, which suggest that a simple step can protect schoolkids from unhealthy weight gain, were featured in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Pediatrics.
They were based on research led by Brian Elbel, associate professor of population health and health policy at the NYU Langone Medical Center.
Experts analyzed data referring to more than 1,200 New York City schools and more than a million of their pupils, from kindergarten age until 8th grade.
Given that in 2007 some of the cafeterias from these educational centers were equipped with waterjets in order to provide an alternative to sweetened beverages and to allow children to stay hydrated more easily, the purpose was to see if such a measure had any effect on calorie intake and weight.
After all, drinking water is believed to curb hunger, by making people feel fuller, and thus less inclined to consume high quantities of food.
It was determined that indeed, in academic institutions where self-serve water coolers had been set up, kids had begun to shed pounds, thus reducing their body mass index (an indicator that assesses body fat depending on height and weight).
As a result of these changes brought about by water dispensers, children weighed approximately 4 or 5 pounds less than their counterparts who hadn’t benefited from devices at their school.
The benefits, encountered especially among male students, may not be staggering, study authors admit, but they do add up in time, and can make a difference.
Even more remarkably, introducing such machines doesn’t even put excessive strain on the budget, water coolers being a cost-effective investment, that will eventually pay for itself, by significantly lowering the economic impact of obesity not just at a local level, but nationwide.
The same opinion is shared by New York City residents, who have praised authorities for thinking of such a straightforward, yet helpful solution.
Taking small but decisive steps to keep the weight of schoolkids within normal limits is especially important nowadays when childhood obesity has triggered a public health crisis across the nation, and even throughout the world.
Normally, an adult is considered overweight when the body mass index (BMI) is between 25 and 29.9; obesity on the other hand begins once the BMI reaches 30 or surpasses this value.
Among children, it’s much less reliable to calculate body fat this way, given the fact that each person has a different growth and development pattern.
As a result, kids are usually seen as overweight when their BMI is higher than that of at least 85% of other peers of the same gender and age. Obesity sets in when this indicator is greater than the one recorded among at least 95% of the children born in the same year and having the same sex.
According to Dr. Ron Feinstein, pediatric weight management specialist at the North Shore University Hospital, having on overly high body mass index from an early age can be extremely dangerous, because it makes it much more likely for this excess weight to persist or even increase during adulthood.
This in turn results in a much more elevated susceptibility to a wide array of health disorders, like type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure etc.
As Feinstein points out, unless immediate measures are taken to reduce the prevalence of childhood obesity, this new generation of kids may become the first to have a lower life expectancy than that of their parents.
Nowadays, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates, around 17.5% of all the children and adolescents aged between 3 and 19 are obese, the incidence of this far-reaching medical condition having more than tripled since the 1970’s.
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