Study: More water, less sugar-sweetened beverages

The purpose of this study is to examine the correlation between students' consumption of sugary drinks and their overall body composition and to draw conclusions on the efficacy of a program to urge students to drink more water.

Study: More water, less sugar-sweetened beverages
Drink more water and fewer sodas. Photo by 21 swan / Unsplash

Several studies have shown a relationship between the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and the development of obesity. Mexico is one of the countries with the highest rates of sugar-sweetened beverage consumption and childhood obesity.

According to data from the National Health and Nutrition Survey on COVID-19 (2021), about 92.9% of the Mexican school population consumes sweetened beverages, so reducing their consumption could reduce the prevalence of obesity and its comorbidities.

As part of her academic training as a Master of Science at the Center for Research in Food and Development (CIAD), Adriana Lucía Bojórquez Quintana conducted a study to evaluate the effect of a program to promote water consumption and sugar-sweetened beverage intake practices and their association with body composition in schoolchildren in Hermosillo, Sonora.

Under the direction of Professor María Isabel Grijalva Haro, academic of the Nutrition Coordination of CIAD, 41 children between the ages of 7 and 12 were recruited from community kitchens in the capital of Sonora with the consent of their parents or guardians.

The children were evaluated on different aspects of knowledge, understanding, and practice regarding the importance of water consumption. In addition, five sessions and twenty-minute workshops were held to promote the consumption of this vital liquid.

As part of the study, questionnaires were administered to the participants in which they were asked about their frequency of food and beverage consumption. In addition, anthropometric measurements of weight, height, body mass index (BMI), and waist circumference were taken.

Among the main findings, it was found that after three months following the intervention with the children, the results showed that the participants had an average weight of 33.96 kg, a BMI of -0.51, and a waist circumference of 65.32 cm. Likewise, those who at the beginning were in the waist circumference classification in the >90th percentile were 9.75%, but after the intervention, they decreased to 7.69%. At the end of the intervention period, it was found that the schoolchildren's bodies didn't change much in terms of how they were made up.

Through a linear regression analysis, a significant association was found (p  0.05), which showed that the higher the BMI (the index for children), the higher the milliliters of sugar-sweetened beverages consumed.

Regarding the diet of the school children, a decrease in the consumption of carbohydrates was observed with a decrease of 90 g (p  0.05). However, the consumption of water decreased by 100 ml and, on the contrary, that of sugar-sweetened beverages increased by 223 ml. Also, the amount of water consumed was found to be 1,250 ml/d, which is about 5 glasses per day. This is less than the recommended amount of 8 glasses per day.

Although the intervention program was not able to promote an increase in water consumption and a decrease in the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, changes were found in the children's knowledge of the benefits of water consumption and the harmful effects of sugar-sweetened beverages.

The above results could be because the study was done during the COVID-19 pandemic when children were not allowed to go to school and had more access to sweetened drinks at home.

Bojórquez Quintana thinks that, based on these findings, the relevant authorities should make public policies that include programs to encourage people to drink more water, especially in schools and public spaces, where there should be enough drinking fountains and clean drinking water for children to have access to this important liquid.

Likewise, more publicity is required in the promotion and education campaigns that lead to reducing the intake of sugar-sweetened beverages since the harmful effects of these types of beverages and their relationship with the risk of overweight, obesity and other chronic non-communicable diseases have been demonstrated.

For future interventions, it is recommended to increase the sample size, the intervention time, and the inclusion of parents in the study, since it was shown that 30% of the parents did not know about the harmful effects of the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and their attachment to consuming these types of beverages.