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September 27, 2010

Sports Drink Pass Through Parents' "Junk Food" Filter

WARNING: Use only in cases of extreme exercise

Here's one of my pet peeves: Parents who otherwise feed their children a healthy diet still let them have sweetened sports drinks, not realizing the stuff is just soda without the bubbles. To this point, this kind of behavior was just anecdata. But, no longer! Turns out that not only are lots of kids drinking the stuff, but that having an otherwise healthy lifestyle makes it more likely a kid will consume sports drinks (via Science Daily):
Children who practice healthy lifestyle habits such as eating fruits and vegetables and engaging in physical activity may be negatively impacting their health because they tend to consume large amounts of flavored and sports beverages containing sugar, according to research at The Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth).

Researchers examined the association between sugar-sweetened beverage consumption, unhealthy and healthy foods and physical activity levels of 8th and 11th grade Texas students to determine the relationship between beverage consumption and other behaviors. Sugar-sweetened beverages are drinks that contain added caloric sweeteners such as sugar or high-fructose corn syrup, including a large variety of carbonated and noncarbonated drinks but excluding 100 percent fruit juice.

Flavored or sports beverage drink consumption increased with levels of healthy food consumption and physical activity when compared to high soda consumption, which was associated with lower levels of these healthy behaviors.

It seems like parents are giving sports drinks a pass right through their "junk food" filters. Score another one for billon-dollar corporate marketing campaigns!

Oh, and the researchers don't give 100% fruit juice a pass either -- suggesting that it's mostly empty calories, too and that kids shouldn't drink more than one glass of juice per day. The researchers observe kids who drink the blue/red/green stuff risk losing all the benefits of their healthy behaviors. In their opinion, sports drinks should be used only in cases of "extreme exercise." Man, I'd love to see that turned into a warning label!

Photo credit: Ben Watts

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