June 23, 2015
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More than half of U.S. children not drinking enough water

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According to a recent study, more than half of the children and teens in the U.S. are not adequately hydrating with water, posing a severe risk to their physiological and cognitive functioning.

“This is the first study to document the prevalence of inadequate hydration among U.S. children using nationally representative data,” Erica L. Kenney. ScD, of the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Harvard, and colleagues wrote. “On the basis of elevated urine osmolality levels, more than half of all children were inadequately hydrated.”

Researchers analyzed urine osmolality data from 4,134 children aged 6 to 19 years. Sample data was taken from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, conducted between 2009 and 2012. Osmolality data was compared to a baseline of 800 mOsm/kg to determine hydration status, with any results higher than the baseline indicating poor hydration.

Results showed that 54.5% of all cohort members were inadequately hydrated at the time the urine sample was taken. Boys had a higher risk of inadequate hydration than girls (OR = 1.76; 95% CI, 1.49-2.07.

The study also found that urine osmolality differed notably by race, with non-Hispanic blacks registering higher osmolality levels than non-Hispanic whites (+ 67.6 mOsm/kg; 95% CI, 31.5-103.6).

The physiological effects of dehydration range from mild issues such as headaches to more severe effects like impaired renal, immune and gastrointestinal functioning. Dehydration is also associated with cognitive impairment in children, causing irritability, poor performance in school, confusion, and in extreme cases, delirium.

The study found that nearly a quarter of the children sampled reported no pure water consumption at all. Researchers suggest increasing children’s water consumption through free access and promotional efforts in schools. Increased access to drinking water in schools has been demonstrated to improve cognitive functioning and overall mood.

"If we can focus on helping children drink more water — a low-cost, no-calorie beverage — we can improve their hydration status, which may allow many children to feel better throughout the day and do better in school,” study researcher  Steven Gortmaker, PhD, said in a press release.– by David Costill

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.