Guest article by Sam Hadadi,
KIDS: Why They Need to Stay Hydrated
Most of us know that drinking enough water is one of the keys to keeping our bodies in tip-top condition.
Glugging back at least two litres of H2O a day can keep our bodies hydrated, our muscles energised, and our skin youthful and glowing.
Yet, what about children too? While we make sure we’re drinking enough, are we keeping our little ones healthy and hydrated as well?
A shock new study has revealed that more than half of all children and adolescents in the U.S. aren’t hydrated enough - a situation that could pose huge problems for a child’s physical health, as well cognitive and emotional functioning.
The study, the first US one of its kind, came from top bods at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Researchers also found that there were racial, ethnic and gender gaps in hydration, too. Black children and adolescents were at higher risk of poor hydration, while boys were at higher risk than girls.
Erica Kenney, one of the team of researchers, said: "These findings are significant because they highlight a potential health issue that has not been given a whole lot of attention in the past.
"Even though for most of these kids this is not an immediate, dramatic health threat, this is an issue that could really be reducing quality of life and well-being for many, many children and youth."
During the study, the researchers looked at data from 2009-2012 from more than 4,000 children and adolescents aged 6 to 19.
Each child had taken part in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a study of the health of U.S. children and adults. The researchers also looked at urine osmolality - a way of testing how concentrated urine is - to see whether or not participants were well hydrated.
Shockingly, the study found that little more than half of all children and adolescents aren’t well hydrated. Boys were a massive 76% more likely to be dehydrated than girls, while non-Hispanic blacks were 34% more likely than non-Hispanic whites to be poorly hydrated.
Depressing reading, isn’t it? Yet the good thing about this study? It’s simple to solve!
Senior author Steven Gortmaker said: "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."
While many of you will be dashing to refill your kid’s water bottle, many still don’t understand the importance of water. Yet, without it, we can’t function properly. In fact, we can’t even survive.
Drinking enough water is crucial to maintaining our health. It helps our bodies with circulation, it kickstarts the metabolism, it helps us to regulate body temperature, and it flushes out waste.
In fact, it’s even more important that children are drinking enough than it is in adults. You see, kids have a higher percentage of body water than adults, which means they have to keep drinking up to replace it all.
So, what else is humble H2O good for? And how can it help our children?
Well, quite simply, it can produce brainiacs – yep, water can even make you smarter and cleverer. And doesn’t want a bit of that for their kids? A study1 in London found that taking water into an exam can boost grades. Impressive stuff, right?
Hilary Forester, from the British Medical Association, added: "Poor hydration adversely affects a child's mental performance and learning ability. Symptoms of mild dehydration include light-headedness, dizziness, headaches and tiredness, as well as reduced alertness and ability to concentrate."
As if that weren’t reason enough, giving your kids enough water can also:
Plus, when you consider how much money you’ll save when you cut back on the squash and the juice, what’s not to love…?
Sadly, there are no simple guidlelines in the UK about how much H2O your child should be drinking. However, for a rough idea, it’s helpful to look to the US, who have ideas on how much each kid should drink.
For optimum health, the US recommends that children aged one to three drink around 0.9 litres each day. Four to eight-year-olds should glug back 1.2 litres, while nine to 13-year-old girls should have 1.6 litres (this rises to 1.8 for boys) and 14 to 18-year-old girls should go for 1.8 litres (this goes to 2.6 for boys).
It’s crucial that your child drinks this much each day - even mild dehydration can cause headaches, irritability, poorer physical performance, and reduced cognitive functioning.
Of course, when a child is ill, they should always consume more fluids. They also need to drink up when the weather is hot, or when they are exercising.
While many different drinks count towards your hydration levels, they’re not all equal. Fruit juice, squash and fizzy drinks are all high in sugar, which wreaks havoc on a child’s health and have been linked to the obesity crisis2.
Sadly, the study we were talking about earlier also found that a quarter of the children and adolescents analysed reported drinking no plain water at all. Perhaps this isn’t such shocking news, though, when you consider that further US studies3 show that 70 per cent of kids at preschool age won’t just drink plain old water – they need something sweet added to it.
However tempting it may be, adults and parents should be encouraging children to ask for plain old water. Nothing added, no tricks, no nasties – just regular old water, preferably from a natural spring, or passed through a filter system.
Here at Lucy Bee, we’re also huge fans of hydrating children4 with coconut water. You see, coconut water - the liquid component of the endosperm (kernel) of the young coconut fruit – is incredibly nutritious and also has wonderful rehydrating powers.
When your little ones are tearing about all day, or running riot in the garden, coconut water is a great alternative to replace lost electrolytes and to boost potassium and magnesium levels.
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Sam Hadadi is an ex-BBC journalist and now a freelance writer specialising in fitness and food.