Water could be the answer to combat the rising incidence of childhood obesity. A five-year study is suggesting that serving water with school lunches could prevent half a million children from developing obesity later in life. 

Not only is this solution effective, it is low cost as well, say the researchers from the University of Illinois.

It showed that installing a water dispenser in school cafeterias for students will only cost USD 18 per student for the entirety of their education.

The five-year pilot study, conducted in 1,200 elementary and middle schools in New York City, found that opting to drink water during lunch in school is more effective for children in preventing childhood obesity than selling health food lunches.

Between 2009 and 2013, students drank more water and less milk at lunchtime. Researchers noted changes a year later.

"The nutrition profile doesn't change much when people increase their planned water intake, but we do see a significant drop in their saturated fat and sugar intake," Kinesiology and community health professor and study author Ruopeng An said.

He added that while they could potentially be problems if children consumed less of whole milk, these will probably be minor when compared with the costs associated with the skyrocketing rates of childhood overweight and obesity [cases] in the US.

In the United States, expanding the programme could even prevent half-a-million children from becoming obese, and not add to statistics showing one in five school-aged kids was already obese.

Decreases in childhood obesity eventually cuts obesity risk among adults, thus lowering risk for major illnesses including cardiovascular diseases and cancer.

The medical costs of an overweight person is estimated at USD 350 annually, but could go up to USD 1,5000 for those who are obese.

Professor An further noted that in an earlier study, there was not enough evidence to show that drinking too much water had negative effects on the participants' health.

The findings also compared well against other obesity prevention policies. MIMS

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