Accessibility Links

Serving water with school lunches 'can improve children's health'

10/11/2017 Joanna

Schools could make a big impact on children's long-term health by serving plain water with school lunches, according to a new study.

Carried out by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the analysis examined the benefits of a nationwide expansion of a pilot programme placing water dispensers in the cafeterias of 1,200 primary and secondary-equivalent schools in New York between 2009 and 2013.

It was found that this simple intervention resulted in the consumption of water at lunchtime by students seeing a threefold increase, with small but significant declines in their risks of being overweight observed one year later.

According to the researchers, these dietary adjustments at a formative age have the potential to lead to permanent reductions in the incidence of adults who are overweight or obese, as well as decreased medical costs on a nationwide level in future, plus a reduction of indirect costs from absenteeism and reduced productivity in later life.

Although it was noted that those who drank more plain water consumed significantly less whole milk at lunchtime, it was determined that this was unlikely to pose any nutritional risk, suggesting that providing water for students represents an easy way to improve the health and wellbeing of students.

University of Illinois kinesiology and community health professor Ruopeng An said: "The nutrition profile doesn't change much when people increase their plain-water intake, but we do see a significant drop in their saturated fat and sugar intake.

"While there might potentially be some problems if children consume less whole milk, I would say those are probably minor in comparison with the costs associated with the skyrocketing rates of childhood overweight and obesity."

Add new comment