A study of about 3000 children in 32 schools in Germany found that installing water fountains, giving the children refillable water bottles, and using teaching lessons promoting the health benefits of water consumption reduced the risk of being overweight by 31%.
The one year study, published in Pediatrics, weighed 2nd and 3rd graders in socially deprived areas and interviewed them about their water consumption. In schools in the intervention group, water fountains were added and four lessons were presented to the kids about the health benefits of water consumption. Water flow from the fountains was also measured.
Before the study period, there was no statistical difference between the two groups in the prevalence of overweight kids. At the end of the year, after adjusting for the baseline prevalence of being overweight, the authors found a 31% decrease in the risk of obesity in the intervention group.
After the study, researchers found that water consumption in the intervention group had increased by over 7 ounces per child per school day, and the fountains were in steady use throughout the year. No mention was made about food consumption during the period, although no effect was found on soft drink and juice consumption in the intervention group.
While not a magic bullet for keeping kids in a healthy weight range, the study was a positive example of how small changes in daily routine can have a lasting impact on children’s health.