Kids and young adults who drink no water throughout the day may consume twice the number of calories from sugary drinks than those who drink water, according to researchers at Penn State, underscoring the importance of children having free access to clean water.
“Kids should consume water every single day, and the first beverage option for kids should be water,” said Asher Rosinger, PhD, assistant professor of biobehavioral health and director of the school’s Water, Health, and Nutrition Lab.
“Because if they’re not drinking water, they’re probably going to replace it with other beverages, like sugar-sweetened beverages, that are less healthy and have more calories,” said Rosinger.
Sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) include soda, sweetened fruit juices, sports drinks, energy drinks, and sweetened tea and coffee drinks. They don’t include 100% fruit juices, drinks sweetened with zero-calorie sweeteners, or drinks sweetened by the consumer.
Other research has shown an overall decline in SSB consumption, but there are still populations of children in the United States who are more likely to consume sugary drinks, Rosinger said. He and his colleagues set out to better understand how many kids drink water on a given day, how many do not, and how their caloric intake from sugar-sweetened beverages differ.
The researchers used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, including 8,400 children between the ages of 2 and 19. Data included information about their water and SSB consumption, as well as calories from sugary drinks and the percent of total calories coming from them.
On any given day, about 20% of children reported drinking no water. Also, those children consumed almost twice as many calories from SSBs, about 200 calories total, than children who did drink water.
Additionally, the Department of Agriculture recommends that no more than 10% of a person’s daily calories should come from added sugars, yet the children who did not drink any water on a given day tended to exceed this limit from sugary drinks. Rosinger said that there are many reasons why these children may not drink any or enough water.
“It’s important to note that in parts of the US, some people may not trust their water due to lead or other contamination,” said Rosinger. “Water insecurity is a growing problem in the US, so we need to keep that in mind as important context, especially when it comes to parents who may be giving their kids soda or juice because they distrust the water.”
Rosinger next wants to explore possible interventions to help boost water intake in children.
The study, “Association of Caloric Intake From Sugar-Sweetened Beverages With Water Intake Among US Children and Young Adults in the 2011-2016 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey,” was published by the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics.