Kids, if it wasn’t obvious already, should be drinking water, not sugary soft drinks. Adding plain old water to the diets of overweight youngsters not only reduced their intake of sugary drinks, but the kids also ate less overall and reduced their intake of convenience foods. The same trick worked when adding milk to their diets.
These results, from a Danish study involving 173 overweight adolescents, add experimental weight to recommendations from health officials that children should drink plain water as their best source for hydration, according to a accompanying press release.
The study involved no coercion or difficult changes in diet. Participants were asked only to add a liter (just under a quart) of either water or milk to their diets, per day, for 12 weeks. Other than that, they could keep eating and drinking as normal. This makes the "diet" easily applicable to overweight people in everyday life.
That drinking water reduces calorie intake is no surprise. What may be surprising, though, is that the participating kids also cut down on other calorific foods during the study, and ate less in general. Overall, the water-drinking group consumed fewer calories per kilo of bodyweight during the trial. The biggest loser was what the study categorized as "convenience food," which dropped the most during the trials. Participants also ate less "health conscious food," as part of the overall pattern of fewer calories, and actually ate more "fast food." The results were similar for the skim-milk-drinking group, although the overall calorie intake of the milk drinkers didn’t change significantly during the study.
Why do a few glasses of water per day make such a difference? It may simply be that it fills you up, while containing zero calories. "Water contains no energy but might contribute to a feeling of fullness," write the study authors. "Water might therefore stabilize or reduce total energy intake by decreasing total energy."
So, despite the debunking of the eight-glasses-per-day myth, there are still benefits to drinking lots of plain water. You may not need it to avoid chronic dehydration, but if it takes the place of a snack, all while feeling refreshing, then why not?