Water helps kids focus, improves ability to multitask: study

Faculty in the News: Naiman Khan, Assistant Professor Kinesiology and Community Health

Date

11/14/19

By Melissa Malamut, New York Post

Scientists have discovered a magic elixir that can help children’s cognitive performance: water.

That’s right. Good old-fashioned H2O.

A new study, co-authored by Northeastern University professor Charles Hillman and Naiman Khan at the University of Illinois, found that drinking water and staying hydrated increased children’s ability to multitask and improved their reaction times.

The findings were published in September in the Journal of Nutrition.

“Kids who were more hydrated performed better on tasks of mental flexibility — multitasking — and working memory,” Hillman tells The Post. “This is the first study that used a randomized controlled crossover design to study the relationship of hydration and cognition in children.”

Hillman, who has been studying how physical activity and fitness can affect the brain and cognition for two decades, says that he was approached by scientists from Danone Nutricia, a French company with Evian water in its product line, to see if he’d be interested in using his study models to also look at how hydration affects the brain.

In the study, researchers looked at the test results of 75 children in Illinois between the ages of 9 and 11 showing their cognitive abilities after drinking various amounts of water. The results, Hillman said, showed a correlation between how much water they drank and how quickly they were able to switch between different tasks.

Previous research has linked dehydration to poor cognitive function in children.

“Children who were better hydrated tended to have greater ability to multitask and faster reaction times, and children who increased their water intake also increased their ability to multitask,” Khan said in a statement. “That tells us that the benefits of water may be selective for cognitive processes associated with multitasking.”

So raise a glass, or two — even if it means more bathroom breaks.  NYPost Article