drjoangandyThe majority of children in the UK rely on too many sweetened beverages and not enough water, according to consultant nutrionist Dr Joan Gandy.

The recently-elected Fellow of the British Dietetic Association (pictured left) told delegates at day 2 of JFHC Live 2013 that 62% of 15-18 year-olds in the UK don't meet the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) recommended standard for daily fluid intake.

While there is currently no agreed RDA for water in the UK, EFSA suggests a daily intake of 1,300ml (or two-and-a-half 'standard-size bottles of water) but Dr Gandy told the room full of dietitians, nutrionists and other healthcare professionals that what children are drinking is just as important as how much.

"There are big gaps in public and professional knowledge when it comes to water consumption," Dr Gandy explained. "There are few [healthcare experts] in this room who are aware of the EFSA regulations, but equally importantly, the majority of mums don't think 'thirsty' when they hear their child cry."

Dr Gandy reported on studies that showed even a five per cent level of dehydration can cause a significant decrease in memory and cognition functions in young adults but due to concerns on its impact there is very little empirical evidence of its effects on children.

"The toddler years are key to creating good drinking habits, even though social pressures may overide these later," Dr Gandy continued. "At that age, children have a higher level of water turnover, higher percentage of water in their bodies and immature systems so it's extra important they get their hydration levels right.

However, it's not that age group which most concerns Dr Gandy as she showed results of a recent BDA survey measuring the distribution of fluid intake in the UK. It showed that 81% of 3-6 year-olds hydration comes from 'good sources' (e.g. water, unsweetened fruit juice) but that 7-10 year-olds consume the least fluid outside mealtimes (58%) while 11-18 year-olds take on 64% of their liquid in sugar-sweetened beverages.

Dr Gandy concluded: "It's key that we start to think more about what our children are drinking and when. There is a clear lack of research in this area at present but if we can start to transfer the kind of knowledge on effective hydration being applied in sports to public health then hopefully we can reverse the trends of reducing water consumption and increasing use of sugar-sweetened drinks."

Her talk was followed by child health expert Tam Fry's scathing evaluation of the Department of Health's latest child growth charts which he described as "outrageously innacurate".

"The DH's charts attempt to marry chalk and cheese," he continued. "They are based on the 1% of children in the UK who are exclusively breastfeed for the first 6 months, so there is a 0.5kg error rate in the majority of children's measurements."
Click here to read Tam's full evaluation of the Growth Charts from the December 2012 issue of JFHC.

Other key talks on day 2 of the event included Bronwyn Rich's review of youth mental health first aid and Dr Nick Read's look at IBS and the family. We will have video and audio highlights of these on the website over the coming weeks - head to www.jfhc.co.uk/JFHC_Live_2013_33265.aspx for all the best content.

Posted 13/03/2013 by richard.hook@pavpub.com