Is your child being manipulated by the great media/advertising machine to the detriment of his or her health? Are you colluding in this effort? If you're allowing your child to consume sports and/or so-called 'energy drinks,' the unfortunate conclusion is yes. That's according to a clinical report in this issue of Pediatrics.
In this week's podcast, Rick and I agree with the report that these drinks have no place in the diet of the vast majority of children. First let's take a look at sports drinks, those concoctions purportedly full of electrolytes and such to replenish those expended in exercise.
A look at the nutritional label from several representative 'sports drinks' reveals about 25 to 80 calories of sugar per 8 ounce serving. ( One of my favorite fallacies by the way, serving size. Who really consumes 8 ounces of a drink? 16 or more is the likely scenario.) Sodium and potassium also figure prominently, with some drinks containing a smattering of vitamins. The fact is that few people exercise vigorously enough at one time to require such replenishment and those who do, you know who you are. The vast majority of us, including kids, should opt for plain old water while exercising. The authors of this report suggest that parents concerned about repleting energy sources for their exercising progeny should provide low-fat milk instead of sports drinks.
What's the problem with these drinks anyway? It's really the sugar, and the establishment of a belief and habit that are likely to result in tooth decay, weight gain, and possibly diabetes.
Let's move on to 'energy drinks.' Not only do these contain vastly greater amounts of sugar per serving on average than sports drinks but they also contain huge amounts of caffeine. Yikes! Here's a real potential for disaster for children. As Rick cites in the podcast, some of these drinks contain as much caffeine as 14 or so colas. Imagine your child with 14 Coca-colas under his belt! Not a pretty picture I'll wager. The possibilities though are beyond scraping your kid off the ceiling. Such large amounts of caffeine can lead to heart arrhythmias as well as irritability, insomnia and worsening of anxiety if it already exists.
As I mention in the podcast, another concern in the older pediatric population is combining these drinks with alcohol. A very popular practice in some circles, this may allow more alcohol to be consumed without the usual sleepiness that accompanies drunkenness. As such these combinations have been linked with increased risk for accidents and death. Parents should very specifically warn their children of this danger. The guidelines conclude, and we concur, that any performance enhancing aspects of these drinks are simply too risky for children and should be avoided.
Other topics this week include niacin and heart disease from an NIH communication, sleep duration and obesity in kids in BMJ, and two common drugs and their effect on blood sugar in Nature. Until next week, y'all live well.