(CNSNews.com) – U.S. taxpayers are funding a $30,000 study aimed at getting Latino youth to increase their "intake of tap water" and decrease their intake of sugary drinks.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) issued the $30,000 grant to the University of California at San Francisco in 2012.
The study regards “Increasing Water Intake In Lieu of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages among Latino Youth.”
Now in its second year, the project is focused on California’s Central Valley, described as “an agricultural region with a large low-income, Latino population,” according to the NIH grant description.
“The overall objective of this proposal is to enhance an existing academic-community partnership that will inform priorities for an intervention to increase intake of tap water in lieu of SSBs [Sugar Sweetened Beverages] among Latino children and adolescents,” the description states.
According to the research grant summary, drinking water instead of sodas and sugary drinks “can reduce children’s total daily caloric intake thereby reducing obesity.”
“This issue is of particular significance among Latino youth as they are more likely to drink SSBs and less likely to drink tap water than White and Asian children,” the description states.
It added: “Even though Latino youth are more likely to be obese and to drink SSBs than their non-Latino peers, there is very limited research in this area. Such investigation is critical in designing and implementing interventions and policies to encourage intake of water instead of sugary drinks among Latino children.”
The NIH did not have an answer as to whether the study could have been conducted without federal funding, but stressed the impact of soda drinking on obesity and long-term health care costs.
In an e-mail response to questions from CNSNews.com--which had specifically asked “Could the study have been conducted without federal funding?”--NIH spokesman Robert Bock said: “We really couldn’t speculate.”
“What’s important to keep in mind is that overweight and obesity and their associated health problems have a significant economic impact on the U.S. health care system,” Bock told CNSNews.com.
“Medical costs associated with obesity in the United States totaled $147 billion in 2008 dollars. Overweight or obese children who do not lose their extra weight by adulthood have increased risks of type 2 diabetes high blood pressure and heart disease compared to the non-obese population,” he said.
Bock added to the point.
“The percentage of obese children in the Hispanic population is about 1.5 times greater than in the non-Hispanic white population,” Bock said. “Tap water is a low-cost, non-caloric beverage and encouraging tap water consumption in the school system among Latino children and youth could provide a low cost means to help prevent obesity in this group.”
However, Hispanic youth do not have the highest consumption of sugary drinks.
A separate study conducted in 2010 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)--the National Youth Physical Activity Nutrition Study--found that Hispanic high school students drink more sugar-sweetened drinks than white students, but fewer than black students.
White students actually drink more soda, but when other drinks like iced tea and sports drinks are factored in, Hispanic students rank second behind blacks for drinking sugar-sweetened beverages.
The CDC survey found 22.8 percent of Hispanic high school students drank soda one or more times per day, 17.5 percent have one sports drink per day, while 16.1 percent have “other sugar sweetened beverages.” Another 6.7 percent drink one energy drink per day.
The CDC survey found 32 percent of black high school students drink one or more soda per day, 25.6 percent drink one or more sports drink per day and 24.5 percent drink “other sugar sweetened beverages.” Another 8.7 percent drink an energy drink per day.
For white high school students, the numbers are 24 percent for soda, 13.5 percent for sports drinks and 15.5 percent for “other sugar sweetened beverages.” Another 3.3 percent drink one energy drink per day.