Are sports drinks safe for children?
Sports drinks are often sold as a healthy alternative to sugary soft drinks, but are these drinks appropriate for kids? While initially intended for adult endurance athletes to improve their performance, sports drinks have become dramatically more popular among adolescents.
A recent survey released in the British Dental Journal (BDJ) investigated the consumption of sports drinks in adolescents ages 12-14. The survey found that a large proportion of children consumed sports drinks regularly. In fact, 89 percent consumed the drinks, and 68 percent had a sports drink between one and seven times in a given week. They also found that consumption was not always associated with sports activities. More than half of the children consumed the beverage socially. Finally, 90 percent reported the main reason for consumption was taste and less than 20 percent used the drink for enhanced sports performance.
Interestingly, sports drinks are being marketed towards children and adolescents, even though adult athletes are the intended consumer. According to the BDJ, in 2014 the UK sports drink market was worth 218 million pounds and the core consumers were 15 to 24-year-olds.
And while there are no known benefits to drinking sports drinks for non-athletes, there are plenty of risks.
“The risks in drinking sports beverages are the same risks you would run into if drinking anything else other than water,” says Kate Malcolm, an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer at Advocate Condell Medical Center’s Centre Club in Libertyville, Ill. “You risk over-consuming sugar.”
According to BDJ, if consumed socially and in large quantities, sports drinks can lead to serious problems, such as:
- Heart disease and gout
- Poor oral health
“It’s important we teach our youth at a young age about the proper way to stay hydrated and healthy,” says Malcolm. “You can never go wrong with water and fruit.”
“In addition, the most natural nutrition comes from the earth and not from a chemistry lab,” she says. “If we can teach our youth this at a young age, they will have the knowledge they need to make healthier choices for the rest of their lives.”