Study Finds Fresh Water Access in School Reduces BMI

Thomas Peracchio, Staff Writer

Looking for an easy way to lose a few extra pounds this Spring? According to researchers at NYU Langone Medical Center, the simplest way to trim down may be to switch your usual sugary beverage for water.

On Jan. 19, NYU Langone released a study showing a connection between the implementation of dispensers known as water jets in New York City Public Schools and students’ lower Body Mass Index (BMI). According to the study, these dispensers are electrically cooled containers with a push lever that give students access to clean New York tap water. The machines chill and oxygenate the water and cost around $1,000 each.

Researchers sampled 1,227 public schools, 483 of which received water jets during the 2008-2009 and 2012-2013 school years.

The results were striking. In the schools that received water jets, elementary and middle school boys’ BMIs decreased by 0.025, while girls’ BMIs dropped by 0.022. For perspective, a healthy BMI for boys at age 10 would be 23, and 22 for girls.

These findings come at an important time for adolescent health in the United States. Over the past 30 years, childhood obesity rates in the United States have doubled, and today, more than one third of children in America are overweight or obese. For minority or lower-income children, the statistics are often worse.

Childhood obesity can find roots in sodas and sugary beverages. The average soda bottle can contain up to 16 teaspoons of sugar. The study suggests that offering easy access to water in lunchrooms could encourage students to choose healthier drink options.

“Decreasing the amount of caloric beverages consumed and simultaneously increasing water consumption is important to promoting child health and decreasing the prevalence of childhood obesity,” the study reads. “Water jets could be an important part of the toolkit for obesity reduction techniques at the school setting.”

The water jets therefore appear a welcome addition to the cafeteria. However, according to associate professor in the Department of Population Health at NYU Langone Brian Elbel, water jets will not be the only effort to reduce obesity in schools.

“Providing students healthy options during lunch, like fruits and vegetables, is also important for addressing childhood obesity,” Elbel said.

Several NYU students also believe the water jets would be useful at all the university dining halls. Stern freshman Aditya Mehra said dining hall designated water jugs would lead to increased water consumption.

“Almost every dining hall has soda machines and milk, with a small water option,” Mehra said. “But I actually think just seeing a larger water jug option might make people more inclined to have it.”

Elbel also said the dissemination of water jugs to NYU’s dorms and offices might have positive results.

“It is possible that more widespread adoption of these machines outside of a school setting could be useful,” Elbel said.

Email Thomas Peracchio at [email protected].