Obesity is understood to be linked to high sugar intake – notably from sugar-sweetened beverages. We believe that water rather than sugary drinks, should be the preferred choice for daily hydration.
A growing public-health problem
A report by the World Health Organization (WHO) reveals that, in 2016, 39% of adults aged 18+ were overweight and 11% of men and 15% of women were obese. Nearly 2 billion adults worldwide were therefore overweight and, of these, more than half a billion obese. Adult overweight and obesity have shown a marked increase over the past 4 decades. By the same token, the prevalence of overweight and obesity among children and adolescents (aged 5-19) has risen dramatically from 4% in 1975 to just over 18% in 2016.
The WHO considers childhood obesity to be one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century, since overweight and obese children are likely to stay obese into adulthood and are more likely to develop noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), such as diabetes and cardiovascular problems, at a younger age.
Sugar as a causative factor
There is strong scientific evidence showing that excessive consumption of added sugar is one of the key factors contributing to overweight and obesity. The World Health Organization (WHO) claims that “there is increasing concern that intake of free sugars – particularly in the form of sugar-sweetened beverages – increases overall energy intake and may reduce the intake of foods containing more nutritionally adequate calories, leading to an unhealthy diet, weight gain and increased risk of NCDs.”(1)
Drink well, eat well and move
Everyone should take part in physical activities and adopt good eating habits, wherever possible. These lifestyle measures are, however, especially critical if you have an overweight or obesity problem. Reducing the intake of added sugars from what you eat and drink, especially, is also highly recommended. In terms of daily hydration, we consider that plain water is the appropriate choice, as it adds no calories to the body.
Research among overweight adults who are dieting as part of a healthy lifestyle, suggests that choosing water as the first source of hydration would result in weight loss(2-3). Combined with physical activity, drinking water also helps increase fat oxidation (the body using up stored fats to produce energy)(4-5). Furthermore, studies of schoolchildren have shown that those who drank water as the first source of hydration stabilized their weight(6).
In our view, the widest range of water options, including bottled, tap and filtered water, should be available to individuals and families everywhere, to help address the problem of overweight and obesity.
Measuring overweight and obesity
Around the world, underweight, overweight and obesity in adults are commonly classified by Body Mass Index (BMI). This is a simple index of weight-for-height, defined as the weight in kilograms divided by the square of the height in meters (kg/m 2). For example, an adult who weighs 70kg and whose height is 1.75m will have a BMI of 22.9. Anyone with BMI of ≥ 25 kg/m2 is considered overweight. A BMI of ≥30 kg/m2 is obesity.
Sources: 1. WHO Guidelines, Sugars intake for adults and children, 2015; 2. Dennis E.A., Dengo A.L., Comber D.L., Flack K.D., Savla J., Davy K.P. and Davy B.M. Obesity 2010; 18:300-307; 3. Stookey J.D., Constant F., Popkin B.M. and Gardner C.D. Obesity 2008; 16:2481-2488; 4. Stookey J.D. Clinical Nutrition Insight 2010; 36 (2):1-4; 5. Stookey J.D., Klein A. International Congress of Nutrition, Bankok 2009; (abstract); 6. Muckelbauer R., Libuda L., Clausen K. Toschke A.M., Reinehr T. and Kersting M. Pediatrics 2009; 123: e661-e667