Scientists discover surprisingly simple way to fight childhood obesity

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030325 SANDY SPRINGS, GA: Students at Riverwood High School enjoy a soft drink after school hours. Story concerns the battle between those who support soft drinks in school and those who do not. Freshman Brandon Steinbook goes for a can of Coke after school. (W.A. BRIDGES JR./staff)

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Scientists in New York have found a relatively cheap and easy way to combat America’s childhood obesity epidemic — make water more available in public schools.

That’s the takeaway from a recent study that analyzed more than one million students in 1,227 elementary and middle schools across the city, according to a report from New York University. It compares students in schools that have access to “water jets” — electronically-powered water jugs — to those that don’t.

About 40 percent of schools received the water jets, which cost about $1,000 each. Researchers reported a decline in body mass index of .025 for boys and 0.022 for girls in schools that had the jets for at least three months.

“Doing something as simple as providing free and readily available water to students may have positive impacts on their overall health, particularly weight management,” study senior investigator Brian Elbel at New York University said in a statement. “Our findings suggest that this relatively low-cost intervention is, in fact, working.”

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The findings show that easy access to water during lunch may lead kids to substitute it for beverages that have calories, such as chocolate milk, juice and soda, the researchers concluded.

Consumption of sugary drinks, such as soda, has declined somewhat in recent years. But, experts say, sugar-sweetened beverages remain a key contributor to weight gain among kids and adults alike.

In Georgia, nearly 17 percent of 10-to 17-year-olds are considered obese. The Peach State has also seen a slight decline in obesity among 2-to 4-year-olds, although the obesity rate remains stubbornly high at 13.2 percent.

 


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