A 12-week intervention helped Latino families replace calorie-laden, sugar-sweetened beverages with a healthier alternative – water, according to a study by a research team at Milken Institute School of Public Health (Milken Institute SPH) at the George Washington University. The early research may one day lead to a proven strategy that will help Latinos reduce consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, which can lead to unhealthy weight gain, obesity and related diseases.
The pilot study is part of a project called Water Up! led by Dr. Uriyoán Colón-Ramos, an Associate Professor of Nutrition and Global Health at Milken Institute SPH and funded by The Sumner M. Redstone Global Center for Prevention and Wellness and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The study aims to address sugary beverage consumption among ethnic groups that are vulnerable to obesity and Type 2 diabetes.
The researchers found that families living in a predominantly low-income community near Washington, DC had easy access to sugary drinks but did not have as much access to healthier drink options, like safe, palatable drinking water. Previous research by the team showed that Latinos in this community rarely drank water from the tap because they disliked the taste and feared it was not clean.
To encourage the replacement of sugary drinks with water, families received a water pitcher with a lead-removing filter and a reusable water bottle. They received information about their neighborhood’s water quality and participated in activities encouraging water intake instead of sugary drinks.
Dr. Colón-Ramos and her team surveyed the participating families at the start and end of the 12-week period to determine any changes in drinking behavior. Children drank an additional 7.2 ounces of water per day, and decreased consumption of sugary drinks and fruit juices by 1.4 ounces and 2.8 ounces per day, respectively. Parents decreased consumption of sugary drinks and fruit juices by 9.3 ounces per day.
“In the future, we hope to find other acceptable, healthy substitutes for sugary drinks,” said Dr. Colón-Ramos. Such alternatives might make it easier for some people to reduce their consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages.”