Observations Medicine and the Media

Are schoolchildren unhealthily underhydrated?

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.e4196 (Published 19 June 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e4196
  1. Margaret McCartney, general practitioner, Glasgow
  1. margaret{at}margaretmccartney.com

Headlines claiming that children aren’t drinking enough water were based on a study that was unpublished and not peer reviewed. It was also funded by Nestlé, a big player in the bottled water market, writes Margaret McCartney

“Nearly two thirds of children are not drinking enough at breakfast time to be properly hydrated, according to a study,” began a story in the Independent.1 So too read a headline on the Daily Mail’s website.2 The Scotsman published a shorter piece,3 and news networks in New Zealand, Ireland, and India picked up the story.4 5 6 The Independent’s article contained a large chunk of a press release that Nestlé had released under embargo to coincide with the presentation of research it had funded at a conference in San Diego.

Nestlé Waters, which describes itself as “the healthy hydration company,” manufactures several bottled waters, including Perrier, San Pellegrino, Vittel, and Nestlé Pure Life, saying on its website that its brand is “the right choice for healthy family hydration.”7 The UK bottled water market is worth £1.5bn (€1.9bn; $2.3bn).8 Is it really true that children are lacking in water, whether from tap or bottle?

The press release was headlined, “British children start the day not sufficiently hydrated.” It went on, “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 …

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