New study: Kids and sports drinks don’t mix

Too much sugar. Tooth decay. Obesity.

That’s why the American Academy of Pediatrics wants to decrease or eliminate consumption by children and adolescents of sports drinks such as Gatorade and Powerade.

Sports drinks, which contain carbohydrates, minerals, electrolytes and flavoring, are intended to replace water and electrolytes lost through sweating during exercise.

But as it turns out, kids like the taste of these beverages because they’re sweet –and many parents figure they’re good for kids.

Although sports drinks can be helpful for young athletes engaged in prolonged, vigorous physical activities, in most cases, says the AAP, they are unnecessary on the sports field or the school lunchroom.

“For most children engaging in routine physical activity, plain water is best,” says Holly J. Benjamin, MD, FAAP, a member of the executive committee of the AAP Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness, and a co-author of a new report released Monday, May 30 in the June issue of Pediatrics.

It’s better for children to drink water during and after exercise, says Benjamin. The AAP also does not recommend that sports drinks be served with meals.

Report findings also conclude that some kids are drinking energy drinks –which, unlike sports drinks,  contain large amounts of caffeine – when their goal is simply to rehydrate after exercise.

That can be dangerous, say researchers.Energy drinks can also contain other substances not found in sports drinks that act as stimulants, such as guarana and taurine.

According to the AAP, caffeine – by far the most popular stimulant – has been linked to a number of harmful health effects in children, including effects on the developing neurologic and cardiovascular systems.

Energy drinks can also interfere with a good night’s sleep.

Energy drinks are never appropriate for children or adolescents, say study authors. In general, caffeine-containing beverages, including soda, should be avoided.

Labels can be confusing; it can be tough to tell how much caffeine a product actually contains. Some cans or bottles of energy drinks top out at more than 500 mg of caffeine.

That’s the  equivalent of 14 cans of soda.


2 responses to “New study: Kids and sports drinks don’t mix

  1. I agree whole-heartedly about kids getting too much sugar. But this article does not address the new versions of these drinks that are zero calories or very low calories. Water is best, but for quick re-hydration are the zero calories ones OK?

    • Great point, Rose.The AAP did not address low calorie sports drinks or low calorie energy drinks in this recommendation. I’m assuming you mean drinks that contain added artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame? Some recent studies suggest that overuse of artificial sweeteners can actually increase the risk of obesity and related health problems such as type 2 diabetes. I’d suggest talking to a pediatrician before making any beverages with these additives a regular part of any child’s diet. Personally, I think we tend to train young children’s taste buds at an early age to prefer sweet flavors- and then we wonder why they refuse to drink a cold glass of water when they are thirsty or with meals! Here’s a link with more info on the diet drink research. Thanks for writing!

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