Drink bottle designed to fight child obesity

By Sonya Bateson -
Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

A Tauranga student hopes his product - aimed at making drinking water fun - will help combat child obesity.

Sam Thorpe, a University of Otago student who grew up in Tauranga, began developing the Flowbot drink bottle nine months ago and hopes it will be on shelves next year.

It features pictures and games on the side that are only activated if the bottle is filled with water or a low-sugar drink.

The 21-year-old said he and some classmates created the bottle as a result of their goal to try to tackle child obesity, diabetes and tooth decay.

"Our main focus is obesity. It's something that has really increased in the last 15 to 20 years. One of the main contributors to that, we found, is sugary drinks. We looked into it to find out why sugary drinks are more fun than water.

"Many companies have flavoured water and things like that but at the end of the day they're trying to market on taste. To compete against other drinks, we need to provide a whole other experience that takes it to a whole new level and that's what Flowbot does."

There will be two versions of the drink bottle, one aimed at under-5s and another for older children. The first will display a happy face when filled with water or an encouraging message when filled with a high-sugar drink. The older children's version will have a pinball-style game on the bottle that will be de-activated if the bottle is filled with a high-sugar drink.

Mr Thorpe said the technology had been developed and prototyped. He said the exciting thing was it was all new technology and not "piggy-backing" off existing products.

A recent survey of 60 intermediate-aged children, conducted by the Bay of Plenty Times, revealed 25 per cent of them were drinking more than the healthy limit of one soft drink a week, recommended by nutritionists and a dentist.

Western Bay of Plenty Principals' Association president Robert Hyndman said anything that encouraged healthy eating and drinking was a good idea.

Whether the Flowbot drink bottle would be effective or not would depend on the game, he said.

"It has to be more interesting than their taste for sweet drinks but the idea has potential.

"Anything we can do to encourage children to choose healthy options is good, it's much better if they're choosing them through this kind of gimmick rather than us forcing it on them."

As principal of Brookfield School, Mr Hyndman believed sugary drinks affected children's behaviour and ability to focus on their work.

Dr Tony Farrell from Mount Medical Centre said anything that reduced sugar intake in children was valuable.

"Sugar stimulates the release of reward chemicals in the brain. If children learn that reward, they're more likely to take sugar in the future in larger amounts. Good on him for doing this. It sounds great."

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