The American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition and Council of Sports Medicine and Fitness have come out against the routine use of sports drinks and for a complete ban on energy drinks for children and adolescents.
Sports drinks are beverages designed to quickly replenish fluids, carbohydrate and electrolytes like sodium and potassium after vigorous and prolonged exercise. In contrast, energy drinks contain stimulants like caffeine, guarana, taurine, ginseng, L-carnitine, creatinine and/or glucoronolactone that are supposed to enhance performance.
The AAP strongly believes that most young athletes can easily replenish their fluid, carbohydrate and electrolyte requirements with a healthy diet. If a child or teen does have a very intense workout, a sports drink may be helpful right after exercise. It should not be a routine beverage served with a meal.
Water is the best fluid for rehydration and low fat or non-fat milk is sufficient to meet amino acid and protein needs. Especially with the very high temperatures we are experiencing this summer, water consumption throughout the day is very important for everyone.
The AAP sees no benefit in any energy drink and is very alarmed by their overconsumption. The stimulants in these drinks can cause sleeplessness, increased heart rate, high blood pressure, fluid loss, anxiety and heart arrhythmias. Children and teens can become dependent on these substances and may have withdrawal symptoms when they cut down.
Another concern is tooth erosion. These drinks are acidic and can destroy the enamel on teeth.
The Institute of Medicine has published specific recommendations about healthier foods and beverages for children and teens in school, community and home settings:
Limit sugars in food and drink; Have water available at no cost:Restrict carbonated, fortified and flavored waters; Restrict sports drinks to use by athletes only during prolonged, vigorous sports activities; Prohibit energy drink use even for athletes; and Prohibit sale of caffeinated beverages at school.
The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans include 23 Key Recommendations for the general population (over two years of age) so we can live healthier lives and contribute to a lowering of health-care costs. Two of the points made relate to the AAP concerns: drinking water instead of sugary drinks and switching to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk.
By Joanne S. Cavis, CFCS
UGA Cooperative Extension
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