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National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month: Choosing water to reduce childhood obesity

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK (KSWO)– Choosing water over high-calorie sugary beverages could help slow the increase in childhood obesity in Oklahoma – where one in three youth is overweight or obese. Youth who are not at a healthy weight are at an increased risk for immediate health issues like bone or joint problems and sleep apnea, along with long-term health problems such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease. They are also more likely to become obese adults.

Oklahoma is among the top ten worst states for adult obesity, with nearly a third of all Oklahoma adults qualifying as obese. When children learn healthy habits at a young age, they are more likely to practice them as adults. As role models for the family, parents need to take time each day to be physically active with their children and make healthy choices at the grocery store, like avoiding drinks with added sugar.

Shape Your Future, a health education intervention funded by TSET (Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust), is tackling the childhood obesity epidemic by offering Oklahoma families easy-to-follow health tips to reduce Oklahoma’s increasing rate of childhood obesity. Shape Your Future's healthy habits messaging of "eat better, move more, be tobacco free" now encourages Oklahomans to "Rethink Your Drink" and choose water over sugar-sweetened beverages.

In addition to weight gain, drinking one or more sugar-sweetened beverages daily raises the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 26 percent. Each additional serving of soda increases a child’s likelihood of developing obesity by 60 percent.

The majority of Oklahomans aged 18 to 34 drink at least one sugary drink per day – a rate that’s higher than any other state in the nation. Many Oklahomans in this age range are starting families or caring for children in their homes. If sugar-sweetened beverages are not in the home, parents and children are more likely to choose water the next time they reach for something to drink.

“We already see high rates of obesity among children aged two to five years, and one in three young children who already overweight,” said Dr. Stephen Gillaspy, co-director of Health Futures, a pediatric weight management clinic at the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine and Department of Pediatrics. “That’s troubling because we know that obese children are more likely to become obese adults and are at increased risk for developing chronic diseases which can result in reduced quality of life, increased medical costs and shorter lifespans. But as parents, we can make a difference by encouraging healthy choices like choosing water over sodas, sports drinks and juice boxes, a major contributor to the rise in obesity.”

A single 12-ounce can of soda can contain up to ten packets of sugar, which equals the amount of sugar in more than three glazed donuts. Another Oklahoma favorite is a 12-ounce serving of sweet tea, which can contain eight packets of sugar – the same amount consumed when eating 28 gummy bears.

“With busy schedules and sometimes limited choices for food and physical activity, Oklahomans can have real challenges in making healthy choices,” said Dr. Curtis Knoles, University of Oklahoma College of Medicine Department of Pediatrics and TSET Board of Directors member. “But we can all benefit if we choose water over sugary drinks, eat nutritious foods and make time for physical activity every day with our kids. For our children’s sake, we can’t just let the obesity rates in our state continue to climb.”

Making water the go-to choice with meals or to quench thirst can be a challenge. At ShapeYourFutureOK.com, Oklahomans can find a number of infused water recipes – like strawberry basil water -- and other healthy nutrition and physical activity tips for children, adults and families. Free meal planners and physical activity trackers along with healthy, low-cost recipes are available for Oklahomans who want to make sure their healthy habits last a lifetime.

“We want to encourage families to eat together, play together and to make healthy choices every day,” said Tracey Strader, TSET executive director. “Simple steps like filling half your plate with fruits and veggies at every meal, getting 60 minutes of physical activity each day and drinking water instead of sugary beverages can help kids develop healthy habits that follow them for a lifetime.”

The Shape Your Future health communication intervention supports TSET’s strategic plan to improve the health of every Oklahoman. TSET’s program, grant and research efforts focus on reducing the leading causes of preventable death, cancer and cardiovascular disease. The organization is focused on creating healthy environments where Oklahomans live, work, learn and play by making the healthy choice the easy choice.

For more information about National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month and for healthy tips and resources, visit ShapeYourFutureOK.com. Connect with Shape Your Future on Facebook or Twitter (@ShapeFutureOK) to enter contests, share photos and videos, and access other exciting tools.

Copyright 2016 KSWO. All rights reserved.

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