As the focus on childhood obesity continues to increase, more and more studies are being conducted on the health effects of what kids are consuming – whether it’s too much or too little.
It’s no secret that children enjoy sugary treats, or that they are already demonstrating brand loyalty by age two. With that in mind, scientists are working harder than ever to help combat poor nutrition habits in childhood before they become lifelong health risks.
A recent study from Harvard University wanted to determine if kids are drinking enough water to stay properly hydrated. The research team looked at urine samples of 4,000 school children between the ages of 9 and 16 to test levels of hydration. Shockingly, the team found that nearly half of the 4,000 kids were mildly hydrated – meaning they not be noticeably ill but still are at risk for certain problems.
Even slight dehydration can affect concentration, cause headaches or lead to decreased mental function. For children trying to spend their days learning their times tables and about the War of 1812, being mildly dehydrated may lead to poor academic performance. Researchers have also found that having low hydration levels can affect behavior, which can have a classroom wide ripple effect.
The authors of the Harvard study suggested many different reasons why children are not drinking enough water. There are the obvious ones – such as the lure of soda and juices versus plain water. There are also less obvious social reasons why children may avoid water – perhaps they want to feel cool or became influenced by commercials. Many schools have responded to these issues by banning sugary drinks in schools, but this was more about battling childhood obesity as opposed to battling dehydration.
It may not be enough that these unhealthy drinks are now gone – there may need to be more encouragement from teachers and parents to drink the proper amount of water at regular intervals. Some theorize that kids may avoid drinking lots of water at school if they have restroom fears; if this is the case with your child, you may need to have a sensitive yet honest conversation about how water is good for humans and keeps us healthy.
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