A new study published by researchers from Pennsylvania State University analyzed data from 8,400 children and teenagers from the 2011 to 2016 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a survey administered annually by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Parents and kids were asked to recall what the children had consumed in the previous 24 hours, and the calories were added up.
One out of every 5 kids and young adults reported that they did not drink water in the day prior to the survey. Not drinking water was associated with consuming an extra 93 calories per day, on average, and 4.5% more calories from sweetened beverages such as sodas, sports drinks and juice, according to the study.
The number of extra calories consumed varied by age, as well as race and ethnicity.
The research was not designed to determine what amount of water would prevent kids from drinking sugary beverages but rather whether drinking water at all had an effect.
Because of the study design, the research could not establish definite cause and effect between drinking water and consuming fewer calories.
Kids who drink water may have parents who limit sugary drinks and otherwise promote healthy eating, or kids who don't drink water may not have access to safe water, experts noted.
Even so, sugar-sweetened beverages add empty calories to children's diets and may increase the risk of weight gain, obesity and diabetes.
The American Heart Association recommends that the diets of children over age 2 should be limited to 25 grams of added sugar each day and says children should not drink more than one 8-ounce sugary drink per week.
For parents looking to encourage healthy habits, the researchers recommend offering water as the first and preferred beverage choice starting at 6 months of age, limiting access to sugary drinks, modeling drinking water themselves and making drinking water more fun by infusing it with fruit, mint or a squirt of lime or lemon.
Source: JAMA Pediatrics, April 22, 2019.
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