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Can Water Fountains Help Fight Obesity?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
A new study published in the journal Pediatrics shows that installing water fountains in schools can have a direct impact on childhood obesity rates. Surprised?

The study, conducted in Germany, involved 2 groups of second and third graders. The first group had water fountains installed in their schools, and were also presented 4 classroom lessons to promote water consumption. Each child was given a water bottle and teachers were encouraged to organize filling of the bottles each morning. The second group did not have any kind of intervention.

Almost 3,000 students were involved in the study which was conducted over one school year. The result? The risk of overweight was reduced by 31% in the intervention group. And water consumption after the intervention was 1.1 glasses per day greater in the intervention group.

It's not clear whether the risk of becoming overweight went down because of changes in the children's eating habits, drinking habits, or a combination of both. Maybe they ate less because the water filled them up. Maybe drinking more water discouraged the children from drinking higher-calorie juices or soda. Whatever the reason, starting early develops a healthy habit that can last a lifetime.

Many children face obstacles to a healthy diet each day when they go to school. High fat or high calorie meals in the lunch line (I remember Mondays were "tator-tot day" at my school), vending machines filled with soda, ho-ho's and cheese puffs are big temptations. But studies like this give hope that small changes can make a big impact on the health of our children.

What do you think? Are you surprised that these results were so significant? Does your child's school promote healthy habits like these?

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Agreed with some of the commenters here- fountains would be great, IF they were maintained. I remember when I was in school, the water fountains were always disgusting, and even if you were thirsty enough to brave it anyway, all you could taste was rusty metal. It was healthier to get chocolate milk from the cafeteria. So I'm not sure I trust schools to actually keep up with the maintenance necessary for adding more fountains. That being said, where I go to college, there are a bunch of machines on campus to refill water bottles- and because they're kept clean, people use them all the time. There's almost always a line. So- build it and maintain it, and they will come. :D Report
The school where I teach encourages kids to bring water bottles and our drinking fountains get cleaned regularly so they're not at all unpleasant to drink from (at least for me). We're still a pretty obese school, but at least coke during the school day is not contributing to that. Report
I'm old enough to remember when there were drinking fountains in schools and other public places. They were GROSS! No one ever drank from them because they were so filthy. I would support a bottled water program, but not drinking fountains. Report
Most of the junk has been removed from the schools. The biggest problems here in CA is that the schools are falling apart and there is no money to fix them. Some schools the water fountains don't work and they are not fixing them. Too old to repair. It is so sad that the kids can't get anything to drink. They use to have water fountains and a sink in the classrooms but most of those don't work either.
If you don't sent water with your child to school they may have to go all day without a drink. (I saw a local PBS special about this and that most CA's are not even aware of how bad the schools have gotten). Report
I went to enroll my daughter for the 2010 kindergarten school year. I was SO PLEASANTLY surprised that in the enrollment packet was a listing of the things made available in the vending machines as well as the lunch rooms. Vending machines consist of Juices, water & milk. Also Dole fruit cups, pretzels and yogurt bites. No mention of chips, candy bars or twinkies. The lunch room consists of 3 main entree choices, a salad bar and a dessert bar. Hey, if that's the only time she'd have to face a sweet in her day (away from home) I AM ECSTATIC!! I remember just a few short years ago (ok, lie LOL) but high school was a Dr. Pepper from one machine and a frozen Snickers from another - at lunch time. Breakfast was unheard of and dinner was whatever I grabbed at the drive-thru on my way to work.

I love that Sparkpeople is teaching ME to teach my daughter. She is such a healthy eater! The best compliments are at birthday parties or even at McDonalds when she requests water or juice as opposed to soda. She picks the fruit over the fries. I am showing her by example....and Sparkpeople and its members are my example. Some of the transformations I've seen here are jaw-dropping. Kudos to all! Report
This is an article sooooo worth printing, handing to a school board member, asking if this could become part of bettering the health of our students here. We have battled every year with the school about my daughter NEEDING TO HAVE WATER WITH HER AT ALL TIMES. Doctors notes delivered(upon request), doctors notes lost, ignored, blown off. She ends up hopsitalized nearly every year, as we hear time and time again, "With severe asthma, allergies, and your skin disorder~ you should be flushing your body around the clock." We KNOW...we just have a school that allows two trips to a water fountain a day. No water allowed in the cafeteria, without a doctors note!!! Control MUCH!!! Why not allow their milk(in my daughters case Rice Dream), and water as well??? yess this is a keeper! Thankyou for sharing it with the world. Much Much APPRECIATED. :O) Report
Great info Report
heck! in our schools, you are discouraged to bring anything to drink to class!
It is not allowed, you buy a water (from their vending machine) and teachers throw away the bottle! Not alot of help when pushing for 8 glasses of water a day... which cheerleaders have to, football, any sport really pushes pysicall fitness. Report
My son is in jr. high and is a distance runner. During the season, he tries to do the responsible thing and hydrate throughout the day, but the fact is the more you drink the more you urinate, and teachers want kids to 'hold it'.It is a catch 22. I am all for kids drinking more water, but I don't how teachers would manage the loss of so much class time.... Report
I hear a lot of people mentioning germs on water fountains. Studies have shown that water bottles actually carry more germs than water fountains.

We as a society have become so fearful of everything that we overly protect our children which actually makes them more susceptible to illness and infection because their bodies don't know how to deal with germs when they ar introduced to their systems. Report
First, what's all this about being against water fountains in schools? All of us grew up this way and survived just fine. It's when you shield children from all kinds of germs that they can get the sickest because their body hasn't had a chance to learn how to fight off those germs. For instance, doctors discourage people from using anti-bacterial soaps and hand sanitizers all the time because they kill off the good bacteria as well as the bad, which isn't a good thing.

Second, I think all parents and schools should encourage drinking water. It is proven that dehydration is frequently the reason for many symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, lack of focus, the list goes one. I grew up in the heat of Las Vegas and my mother always carried water around everywhere. I picked up this healthy habit and always have water with me wherever I go. I got a big bottle from REI and I make sure to get my daily amount and more. I have even encouraged others to do the same! So, starting kids young on healthy habits can definitely pay off. Report
I say no to water fountains. I think they should each be able to have their own water bottle at their desks so they can drink all they want without drinking out of a germ infested water fountain. I know a few people from the school that say they always know when their daughter/son has been drinking out of the water fountain at school. They get strep every single time! Report
I am surprised over and over at how many friends and people I know don't drink water. It seems like the simplest, most basic thing to give children water to drink, not sugar. Report
Keep that water bottle with you and you don't have to look for a Fountain. Report
Water bottles are an excellent idea at school....even slight dehydration can impact how the brain works. Me if I don't drink enough I get migraines....thus my H2O bottle goes everywhere...My kindergarten has his stainless steel H2O bottle in his back pack at all times so he can grab a drink on the bus or at after school care Report
I wish people would get over their phobias of germs! Come on people!! Ever wonder why kids are so sickly these days? Let them drink from fountains! let them play in the dirt! Report
At my daughter's school they promote healthy eating habits but they sell all kinds of junk at the cafeteria (soda, sugary juices, candy, pastries, etc.). I think if they really believed in teaching healthy habits they'd cut down on selling so much of the junk. I have always packed her lunch, she also has a water bottle at school.
I think water bottles in schools is a great idea. With the stupid things Hs kids like to pull these days(and probably in my day too) teachers have to watch out what is in the water bottles.Maybe they could have a spot in classrooms to fill them once they get there. I have a water bottle with me in my classroom and allow my elementary students to also have one at all times. I do not allow my students to use drinking fountains. I think they spread germs because kids dont remember to keep their mouths off the metal parts.
I also think Phys ed should be brought back to every day. Budget cuts in education has hit hard and it hits the phys ed and arts depts. How sad. Our kids are becomming more and more sedentary because we have to take more time taking more and more tests to get less and less money to run our schools.
I say have gym class and drink water! we will learn a lot better. Report
I know for a fact that having bottles of water my house encouraging my grandkids to drink more water. Nothing taste better than a nice cold drink of water. Report
Kids should ALWAYS have the option of having water readily available to them, and they should be encouraged to drink it. My four year old is in preschool and sometimes he comes home and starts guzzling water. I think they have structured drink time to prevent someone from always being at the sink (and to ensure that everyone does get a drink), but I think water bottles are an excellent idea for kids. I remember being uncomfortable when I was in elementary school because if you wanted to get a drink you'd have to raise your hand and get permission. If kids had a water bottle, and used it appropriately, then it would teach them that water a good thing and they might get filled on water instead of reaching for the sugary drinks. At home, my kids only drink water, with an occasional 100% juice drink and a cup of milk in the mornings. Report
Do schools not have water fountains now? Encouraging kids to stop at them when they see them is good - but they had to install water fountains? I don't understand that at all. Yes - more water will help and my children and Grandchildren love it so that is good! Report
not surprised at all. both my kids keep a water bottle in their backpacks at school. Report
I've noticed a decrease in the amount of gym classes my kids have, compared to when i was in school. my stepson didn't have gym until the last quarter of school this year! i had gym at lease 3 times a week! WTF???? the kids need more gym classes too! Report
I liked your article. I guess this shows water does matter to the body. Report
At my daughters school they are not allowed to carry water bottles or any type of beverage or food. I wouldnt want her to drink out of a fountain. Kids can be gross on purpose. She is dying of thrist when she gets home. That is the first thing she goes for. Report
Schools without water fountains? Gross, dirty water fountains? What is the world coming to? C'mon, schools, clean up your act!

Of course, limiting access to water increases consumption of profitable, sugar-filled vending machine drinks.

What ticks me off is how school will promote Gatorade, as if it's a healthy alternative to pop. Water! Water! Water (without added sugar) is what a kid's body needs! Report
If you drink more water you will drink less sodas and juices, thus you will naturally reduce your daily caloric intake. The secret to losing weight is to burn more energy per day than the amount you take in. You can do this in several ways, eat better foods with less sugars and carbohydrates or exercise more to burn those sugars and carbohydrates. A little know secret however is that chemicals such as preservatives play a big role as well as the toxicity of the foods which you eat in maintain your body weight. Your body is in a constant struggle to keep your blood sugar levels normal and to keep your blood at a PH of 7.35 Depending on the acidity level of the foods you may eat ( a soda is usually a PH of 5) your body will expel or store these toxins. Since not all the toxins are expelled many of them are stored in fat. You can help your body by not drinking just ordinary water but by drinking alkaline ionized water, which allows your body to get rid of these waste much easier and results in natural rapid weight loss. Water ionizers produce this water, it cannot be bottled or stored as it will lose its properties withing about 1 days time of being produced. Read the research we have gathered at our website: Report
I'm not at all surprised by these findings. My mom gave me and my sisters little waterbottles when we were younger so we would drink water more often than anything else. Now none of us really drink any kind of pop. I truly believe that habits are developed at a very young age. This study should be seriously considered, especially since it would be so easy to implement. Report
i find it funny that we study things that seem so common sense. Kids are healthier when they drink water. We drink the things that are most convient. Report
i find it funny that we study things that seem so common sense. Kids are healthier when they drink water. We drink the things that are most convient. Report
No drinking fountains in school? Is this the stone age? What do kids drink after recess? They were in every hall the last time I was in a school!

PUT them back in! Tell parents to only send 1 drink to school with the child.

Better yet, let the parents decide what their child should drink. We do not live in a dictatorship, or at least we didn't use to.............. Report
My kids' schools haven't switched to healthier choices. There is the soda, chips, and candy bars in their vending machines. My daughter gets mad at me when I won't let her buy the school lunch because I don't consider it a healthy choice. Hopefully I will be making the right choices and setting a better example that they can follow. Report
I actually find it quite shocking that some places wouldn't have water fountains. Maybe I'm just lucky to grow up where I did but all of my schools have had water fountains that were very clean. Water is a necesity for life, there is no excuse good enough to NOT have water fountains in schools! Report
water fountains in public word "GROSS"...have you seen what people do to these? No thank you. I will stick to carrying my 4 24oz bottles with me. Report
We had water fountains and when you were desperate you'd drink out of them but having them around wasn't all that important to us. I remember people use to spit out gum into the fountain, and carrying water bottles around use to institute water fights during the really hot weather, so they banned them Report
We didn't carry water bottles around with us at school when I was a kid. However, we did have bubblers (New England-speak for "water fountain"). No one I ever knew got sick from drinking at a bubbler, but maybe I was sheltered. I think having better access to fresh water in school is a great idea. They don't give the kids enough bathroom time as it is, but it would be an added advantage! Report
Wow! I had a German friend who taught at my sons' school in Texas. She returned to Germany to teach there. She tried to get water fountains installed in the school there, but ran up against opposition ("We have never had them, we don't need them"). She taught biology AND PE and was so frustrated! She said kids would try to drink out of the washbasin sinks when they were hot, after PE.

We take public water fountains for granted--in Europe they simply don't exist. We found one, to our delight and amusement, in a science/technical museum in Mannheim--but it wasn't working. Report
I am agree with mostly all the people who have replied. I take 8 to 9 liter water every day because water haven't got any calories, it has empty calories. You need to drink additional water in hot or humid weather to help lower your body temperature and to replace what you lose through sweating. If we take sufficient amount of water it will help to flushes out wastes of body, it also transported nutrients and regulates body temperature.

I allow my 4th graders to keep water bottles at their desk. It's good for your brain to remain hydrated. Report
I don't have kids in school anymore but I heard about some of the choice they used to have. There are big incentives for allowing pop in vending machines. It's sad to see what big money can do. I think being able to drink water is great. Report
My sons' school automatically puts all the kids into their free lunch program. The govt. mandates on what they can serve are pretty strong, as far as fat, sodium, etc. They offer a lot of salads, and several meals a month are meatless. One day a month, the entire lunch is a salad bar with a lot of offerings. Even their "junk food" days, like the once a month pizza, has a whole wheat crust and low fat cheese.

The school has a fruit or veggie of the month, which is offered every day for the month. Any kids that try it get a sticker to announce the fact. As part of their science classwork, all the kids work in the school garden, and are encouraged to try anything that is picked while they're there.

They removed all the soda machines (except the one in the teacher's lounge, which the kids cannot access), and replaced them with bottled water machines. (and recycling bins next to them!) The kids are encouraged to take their bottles into their classrooms with them, especially when the weather is warm.

They have PE and during recess are encouraged to be active. In fact, one of their biggest annual fundraisers is a jog a thon! Report
Very surprising!! I grew up with water fountains in school but we were not allowed water bottles or anything else. Still grew up OK Report
We had fountains. The problem was getting permission to go to them for a drink. And forget carrying a water bottle in high school. They were more worried about kids bringing alcohol in than anyone being healthy. Even sealed bottles of water were kept out sometimes. Report
My schools always had water fountains or blubblers. I did not have lunches at school back than but I do know there was a shop that milk was offered and of course other items. I am not sure what impact water fountains would have at schools if there are other choices such as soda or other suger filled drinks. Report
There's nothing wrong with using water fountains, most of us older individuals did so and here we are today...exposure to germs, viruses, etc is important in the development of a healthy immune system (unless you live in a bubble). But for those who think they are "yucky," well, drink Aquafina or Dasani brand bottled waters. Report
I don't think my kids' school premotes a healthy life style. The even have a juice vending machine (which also has high cal. non juice items in it)........ Report
The school district I live in has removed all of the soda machines and added milk and juice machines. I tutor at one of the elementary schools and most of the students have a bottle of water at the desk. It (the school) was rated in the top 10 healthiest schools in the country. Report
My kid's will not drink out of the fountain any were there dirty and gross..They also do not have pop in the vending at there school no junk food either.. they have bottled water.. or they take some with them.. Report
I'm not sure how "risk of overweight" was defined or calculated. I'd be more interested in learning whether ACTUAL overweight status changed at all -- that is, did any children actually lose weight -- as a result of students' participation in the intervention. Report
Interesting article!!

Growing up ALL of the drinking fountains in my school were disgusting and filled with mud or just didn't work at all. Of course, we couldn't afford vending machines either so it wasn't like we were filling up on sugary drinks, we were probably all just really, really, dehydrated! Report