Encouraging children and teens to drink water instead of sugary beverages is associated with decreases in their total calorie intake of an average of 235 per day. Y. Claire Wang, M.D., Sc.D., of Columbia Mailman School of Public Health, New York, and colleagues assessed data from 3,098 children and teens (age 2 to 19) participating in the 2003-2004 National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey. The participants reported which beverages they consumed during two separate 24-hour periods.

Every additional 8-ounce serving of sugary beverages the children and teens drank corresponded to an additional 106 calories in their daily diet-similar to the amount of calories in each beverage, suggesting that individuals do not compensate for these calories by eating less. "Our results also indicate that replacing sugar-sweetened beverages with water is associated with a significant decrease in total energy intake," the authors write. "Each 1 percent of beverage replacement was associated with a 6.6-calorie lower total energy intake, a reduction not negated by compensatory increases in other food or beverages."

The results suggest that reducing the amount of sugary beverages children drink could reduce their risk for obesity, but only if those beverages are replaced with water instead of milk or juice, the authors note.

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2009;163[4]:336-343.