A new clinical report published in the June issue of Pediatrics outlines how these products are being misused, discusses their ingredients and provides guidance to decrease or eliminate consumption by children and adolescents.
“There is a lot of confusion about sports drinks and energy drinks, and adolescents are often unaware of the differences in these products,” said Marcie Beth Schneider, co-author of the report.
“Some kids are drinking energy drinks – containing large amounts of caffeine – when their goal is simply to rehydrate after exercise. This means they are ingesting large amounts of caffeine and other stimulants, which can be dangerous.” Sports drinks and energy drinks are different products, said Holly J. Benjamin, co-author of the report.
Sports drinks, which contain carbohydrates, minerals, electrolytes and flavouring, are intended to replace water and electrolytes lost through sweating during exercise.
Sports drinks can be helpful for young athletes engaged in prolonged, vigorous physical activities, but in most cases they are unnecessary on the sports field or the school lunchroom.
“For most children engaging in routine physical activity, plain water is best,” Dr. Benjamin said. “Sports drinks contain extra calories that children don’t need and could contribute to obesity and tooth decay.
It’s better for children to drink water during and after exercise and to have the recommended intake of juice and low-fat milk with meals. Sports drinks are not recommended as beverages to have with meals.”
Energy drinks contain substances not found in sports drinks that act as stimulants, such as caffeine, guarana and taurine.
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 are never appropriate for children or adolescents, agreed the authors and said that in general, caffeine-containing beverages, including soda, should be avoided.