(NaturalNews) It's not just American adults who are faced with an epidemic of obesity. Children and adolescents are becoming overweight at an alarming rate. In fact, Centers for Disease Control (CDC) statistics show the prevalence of obesity among children between the ages of 6 to 11 has more than doubled in the past 20 years.
But now a study just published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine concludes there's a simple and effective way to reduce the excess intake of calories causing childhood overweight and obesity, as well as contributing to cavities and other health problems. The solution isn't a new drug -- it is simply drinking more water instead of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs).
That's the conclusion of the researchers from Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and the Harvard School of Public Health who authored the study. They analyzed what children and teens reported they ate and drank over two different days, using nationally representative data from the 2003-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. They then estimated what substituting water for SSBs would mean to the total energy intake of youngsters between the ages two to 19. The result? Drinking water instead of sugary drinks could eliminate an average of 235 excess calories per day among children and adolescents.
"The evidence is now clear that replacing these 'liquid calories' with calorie-free beverage alternatives both at home and in schools represents a key strategy to eliminate excess calories and prevent childhood obesity," Y. Claire Wang, MD, ScD, assistant professor of Health Policy and Management at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and the study's lead author, said in a statement to the media.
"Making children and teens more active is important," Dr. Wang explained. "However, simply eliminating the extra calories they don't need from these sugary drinks can tip the energy balance in a major way." For example, a typical 15-year-old boy would have to jog for 30 minutes in order to burn off the calories found in just one 12 oz can of soda.
About 90 percent of U.S. children and teens currently consume SSBs every day. These drinks include soda, fruit drinks, punches, sports drinks and sweetened tea. The calories these drinks contain can add up to a whopping 10 percent or more of the youngsters' total daily intake. On the other hand, there is no evidence that when kids eliminate or drink few SSBs that they will increase their consumption of other foods and beverages to compensate, the scientists noted in their media statement. That means that every can of soda or sweetened fruit drink that is replaced by water translates into a substantial reduction in daily calorie intake.
"This study shows the substantial impact that replacing sugar-sweetened beverages with water could have," stated C. Tracy Orleans, senior scientist and distinguished fellow at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which co-funded the study along with the CDC. "Reversing the rise in childhood obesity requires finding approaches like this to close the gap between daily energy intake and daily energy expenditure. Changes such as this one can potentially add up to significant benefits for the population as a whole."
Sherry Baker is a widely published writer whose work has appeared in Newsweek, Health, the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Yoga Journal, Optometry, Atlanta, Arthritis Today, Natural Healing Newsletter, OMNI, UCLA's "Healthy Years" newsletter, Mount Sinai School of Medicine's "Focus on Health Aging" newsletter, the Cleveland Clinic's "Men's Health Advisor" newsletter and many others.