Oklahoma dietician says sports drinks aren't good for kids
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Handing your child a sports or energy drink right an hour on the playground may not be the best thing you can do for your child.
“Even though sports and energy drinks are marketed to kids under the age of 18, they’re really not a good choice for children,” stressed Diana Romano, a Registered Dietitian and the Family and Consumer Sciences Educator for the Oklahoma County OSU Cooperative Extension Service. “They’re especially inappropriate when they’re consumed as meals or snacks in place of low-fat milk or water.”
Romano indicated that many parents perceive sports and energy drinks to be healthier choices than soft drinks, but routine consumption of sports drinks can lead to excessive calories and can actually increase a child’s risk of being overweight, obese or developing diabetes.
“Obesity and too much weight continue to be major problems for the youth in our state,” Romano explained. “Also, the citric acid that is a common ingredient in sports drinks can cause dental erosion.”
According to Romano, sports drinks are flavored beverages that contain carbohydrates, minerals and electrolytes and were developed for endurance athletes who need optimum performance and need to replace the electrolytes and fluids lost during excessive sweating.
“If your child is involved in prolonged, vigorous physical activity in hot, humid weather, a sports drink might be some benefit,” Romano said. “But in most cases, water is the best thing for young people to drink.”
Even though Romano and other dietitians caution against routine use of sports drinks, they do stress the need for adequate hydration during exercise and even routine daily activity.
“A person’s need for water increases during exercise and in environmental conditions including heat, humidity and sun exposure,” Romano said. “Lack of adequate water intake results in dehydration, which can affect sports performance.”
But Romano stressed that water should be the “routine” beverage of choice for youth, especially during the school day.
When it comes to energy drinks, Romano indicated that they can pose potential health risks for children because of their stimulant content.
“Caffeine is the primary source of stimulants in energy drinks and these drinks usually contain much later amounts found in a serving of cola,” Roman indicated.
The effects of high levels of caffeine in children and adolescents have not been studied, Romano said, but there is increased evidence of caffeine toxicity and addiction in youth, which can affect the development of neurological and cardiovascular systems.
“For that reason, we never recommend energy drinks for children or adolescents,” Romano stressed. “And we would only recommend a sports drinks if children are involved in strenuous endurance activities that last for an hour or more or during extremely hot or humid weather.”
Romano also indicated that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends eliminating all calorie-containing beverages from a well-balanced diet, with the exception of low-fat or fat-free milk.
“We have to help our children so that they will not suffer from being overweight or even obese,” Romano said. “One of the best ways to do that is to encourage our children to drink plenty of water and stay away from sugary drinks.”