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British children start the day not sufficiently hydrated

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Press release

Nearly two thirds found not to be drinking enough at breakfast in first UK study of its kind

The results of the first ever study investigating the hydration status of children in the UK have been published today and show that nearly two thirds (60%) of children aged 9-11 arrive at school not sufficiently hydrated.

The figure is higher for boys at 68.4%, with girls faring slightly better – although 53.5% are still arriving at school with an insufficient level of hydration.

Conducted by the University of Sheffield Medical School, the study was carried out on 452 children aged 9-11. Researchers looked at what the children were eating and drinking before leaving for school, and analysed urine samples to measure urine osmolality (the concentration of the children‟s urine).

Professor Gérard Friedlander, of the Descartes University Medical School in Paris, who oversaw the research as well as similar studies in France and Italy, said: "We are concerned by the findings of the study which suggest that children are not consuming enough fluid at the beginning of the day to be able to maintain adequate hydration through the morning.

"Children are more vulnerable to dehydration than adults due to their high surface-to-body-weight ratio. They also don‟t always pay attention to the feeling of thirst, so may not naturally ask for a drink. Today we want to raise awareness of the importance of hydration in children and strongly encourage parents and carers to make sure their child drinks enough at breakfast time so that they maintain good hydration, in case they don‟t drink again until lunchtime."

This independent research was commissioned by Nestlé Waters, in order to further understanding of the importance of proper hydration in children. These UK findings closely reflected recent research carried out in France and the USA as part of the same project, where 62.2% and 64% (respectively) of children arrived at school insufficiently hydrated.

Recommended fluid intake for children

The European Food Safety Authority advises that boys aged 9-13 should get 2.1 litres of fluid a day and girls should get 1.9 litres from foods and beverages. In terms of intake from drinks, it‟s recommended that children at this age drink at least eight 150ml glasses of water a day, slightly smaller than the glass size recommended for adults.

Dr Pat Spungin, child psychologist and parenting expert says, "Maintaining a good level of hydration is as important for children as having a healthy diet. Although it can sometimes be tricky to get children to drink water, the key is to encourage drinking little and often. Make sure they have a glass of water before going to school and perhaps pack a bottle in their school bag, so they can take regular sips. Plain water should be the first choice for all-day-long hydration."

- Ends -

Professor Friedlander is available for interview on 2nd May 2012 in person or via telephone. For more information about the research or to arrange to speak with him please contact Helen Parker, Christian Dente or Natalie Andrews at Grayling on 0207 025 2500 or email [email protected]  


About the research:

  • ‘Hydration status of UK school-children’ was carried out by the Human Nutrition Unit at the University of Sheffield.
  • The research was carried out under the medical and scientific supervision of Professor Gérard Friedlander, head of the Physiology Department at Georges Pompidou Hospital and at the Necker Children‟ Hospital, director of the INSERM U 845 "Growth and signalling" research centre and teacher of Physiology at the Faculty of Medicine at University Paris-Descartes. 
  • The research was carried out in 12 schools in and around Sheffield with data analysed from 452 participating children aged 9-11, from December 2010 – June 2011. The sample included an equal split of boys and girls and participants were from a cross-section of the socio-economic spectrum. (The original sample size was 505 however a number of children were excluded due to non-compliance in a number of inclusion criteria).
  • The children‟ hydration status was assessed by measuring urine osmolality – in other words the concentration of children‟ urine. The samples were categorised depending on the level of urine osmolality (how concentrated the urine was). 
  • The findings of the research were presented at the Experimental Biology Congress in San Diego from 21–25 April 2012.

A briefing document with further detail/data is available and will be supplied on request.

Other information

  •  The term „ot sufficiently hydrated‟references the stage before clinical dehydration; at this stage you could benefit from drinking more fluids so that you maintain the balance of water in your body.
  • EFSA guidance on water intake here:

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