Making water available through self-serve dispensaries in school cafeterias has been linked to student weight loss, a study published Tuesday revealed, Syracruse.com reported. The findings of the study implied that simply getting kids to drink more water in school could help battle the United States’ childhood obesity epidemic.
In the report, published in JAMA Pediatrics, researchers discovered that with students in elementary and middle schools in New York with water jet machines — which are large, electronically powered jugs with a push lever for dispensing water — there was a slight yet important decrease in their body mass index (BMI) and a decrease in rates of students who were overweight. For boys, the reduction of their BMI was .025 and for girls it was .022, in comparison to students in schools without water jets. The study also linked the water jets with a .9 percentage point reduction in the likelihood of being overweight for boys and a .6 percentage point reduction for girls.
“It’s a small effect but it’s an effect,” said Brian Elbel, an associate professor of population health and health policy at New York University School of Medicine, who led the study with his colleagues, Time reported. “With childhood obesity, we’re looking for any effect, so the fact that we found something small is important.”
The authors of the study argued that easy access to water during lunch might contribute to more kids swapping chocolate milk, juice or soda for water.
“Decreasing the amount of caloric beverages consumed and simultaneously increasing water consumption is important to promote children's health and [reduce] the prevalence of childhood obesity," said Amy Ellen Schwartz, the Daniel Patrick Moynihan chair in public affairs in SU's Maxwell School, who was the study's principal author, Syracuse.com reported.
New York City schools started introducing the water jets in 2009. They cost around $1,000 and aim to provide students with healthier drink options.