Dr. Barbara Ferrer
As summer approaches, we are inundated with commercials promoting sugary drinks as the perfect way to quench our thirsts. In reality, the healthiest way to do so is by having a glass of water.
In Los Angeles County, almost 36% of adults are overweight and nearly 25 percent are obese. These rates are not limited to adults. California leads the nation in obesity among children between the ages of 2 and 4, and the prevalence in Los Angeles County is even higher. According to data from the California Department of Public Health’s Los Angeles offices of Women, Infant and Children (WIC), more than 19% of the 3 and 4 years olds that come into their offices are obese.
Being overweight and obese in childhood has immediate and long-term impacts on health and well-being. Obese children are more likely to have prediabetes and risk factors for cardiovascular disease. They are also more likely to be obese as adults and face additional health problems such as heart disease, strokes, osteoarthritis and several types of cancer.
One of the easiest ways to attack this problem is by making water our drink of choice. Los Angeles County Health Survey data shows that among children ages 0 to 5, 25% drink at least one sugary drink every day, and nearly 50 % of African American and 42% of Latino children drink one or more sugary drinks daily.
On the face of it this might not seem like a big issue, but a child’s risk for obesity increases by 60% for every sugary drink they consume. Soda, juice drinks and sports drinks are the single largest source of added sugars in our diets. They are essentially liquid candy.
And as the weather gets hotter, and people get thirstier they often turn to sugary drinks to quench their thirst.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children under the age of two should avoiding drinking or eating any added sugar because they need nutrient-rich diets and are developing taste preferences for the rest of their lives.
Changing habits can be difficult, but it is possible to make a glass of water just as appealing as a soda. Keep a pitcher of water chilled in the refrigerator with slices of lemon or limes or watermelon cubes. Almost any fruit can add a little zest to your water.
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health’s website, ChooseHealthLA.com, is filled with ideas and ways to cut down the calories and lead a happier, healthier life.
So the next time you’re thirsty, pour yourself a cold glass of water. It’s good for you, your kids, and your waistline. Go to ChooseHealthLA.com to learn more.
Dr. Ferrer is the Director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and has over 30 years of professional experience as a philanthropic strategist, public health director, educational leader, and community advocate.