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Published on July 29, 2011

Do Kids Need Energy / Sports Drinks?

July 29, 2011 

Sports and energy drinks are heavily marketed to children and adolescents, but in most cases kids don’t need them – and some of these products contain substances that could be harmful to children.

According to American Academy of Pediatrics, there is a lot of confusion about sports drinks and energy drinks, and adolescents are often unaware of the differences in these products.  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. Sports drinks, which contain carbohydrates, minerals, electrolytes and flavoring, 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.  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, says AAP researchers.  In general, caffeine-containing beverages, including soda, should be avoided.

In many cases, it’s hard to tell how much caffeine is in a product by looking at the label.  Some cans or bottles of energy drinks can have more than 500 mg of caffeine, which is the equivalent of 14 cans of soda.

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