Water and beverage consumption is an important, but generally under-emphasized, aspect of nutritional health. International health institutes, like the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), have been aiming to combine global data to understand healthy levels of water:caloric intake levels – especially for children.
It is a public health priority of the United Kingdom, United States, and France to replace caloric beverages with plain drinking water. Non-water beverages are typically high in harmful sugars and “hidden” calories that can impact childrens’ nutritional habits for life. To understand how to reduce sugary beverage consumption in children, researchers compiled dietary intake data of children ages 4-13. This information will be critical in understanding the effectiveness of certain policies, like the UK’s tax on sugar-sweetened beverages. Vieux and colleagues recently completed analyses of UK data that can now be compared to existing analyses in the United States and France.
The study published in BMC Public Health assessed water and beverage intake of almost 1000 children in the UK. Water and beverages were classified into these categories: tap water, bottled water, milks (including flavored), sodas (regular and diet), 100% fruit juices, hot beverages (coffee and tea), fruit drinks, sports and energy drinks, flavored waters, and liquid supplements for nutrition use.
Several interesting differences exist between the three countries. The most notable being:
- UK children drink around half as much water as US children
- Household income in the UK correlates with water consumption
- In the US, race correlates with water consumption
- Children in the UK drink the most fruit juices
- Children in the US drink the most soda
- The time of day of consumption varied significantly depending on the country.
Overall, children are only drinking approximately 75% of water recommended by the EFSA. Research has also shown that French children consumed the most water from their diet- which may say something about the quality of their diet.
The negative health implications of high calorie and high sugar beverages has been so well supported that many nations are now considering taxing such beverages. The development of healthy drinking habits will (hopefully) have lifelong, positive implications. With more research, we can better intervene on children’s development of healthy eating habits. In the least, this research should motivate governments to encourage children to drink plain water over sugary beverages. To move forward with effective policy-making, more collaborations and intensive research should be conducted.
Written By: Soleil Grisé, HBSc