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Pediatric group clarifies energy, sports drink harm for youth

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Energy, sports drinks

Children and adolescents should avoid sports and energy drinks says the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Energy drinks can be harmful to kids from stimulants and sports drinks, used to hydrate and replenish minerals, can lead to excess calories and tooth decay.

According to the group, sports drinks and energy beverages are heavily marketed to children and adolescents, but it's important to understand the effects of the drinks that differ shouldn't be consumed by youth.

Energy drinks are not the same as sports beverages, something the AAP says is important for parents and adolescents to understand.

The report, “Sports Drinks and Energy Drinks for Children and Adolescents: Are They Appropriate?” is published in the June 2011 issue of Pediatrics in an effort to provide guidance about the potential for harm to kids who consume the drinks.

Sports drinks and energy drinks differ

Marcie Beth Schneider, MD, FAAP, a member of the AAP Committee on Nutrition and co-author of the report said “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.”

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Holly J. Benjamin, MD, FAAP, a member of the executive committee of the AAP Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness, and a co-author of the report explains sports drinks contain carbohydrates, minerals, electrolytes (sodium, potassium) and flavoring

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 caffeine, guarana and taurine. Caffeine is a popular stimulant that can adversely affect cardiovascular and neurological systems in kids.

The study authors say energy drinks are never appropriate for children – something that should be discussed with patients and parents by clinicians.

According to the report, sports drinks should be limited and only used by pediatric athletes who quickly need carbohydrate and minerals. Water is the first choice of hydration. For meals, low fat milk and juice should be the beverages of choice.

The study clarifies the difference between energy and sports drinks that are marketed to children and adolescents. Sports drinks can lead to obesity and dental problems. The stimulants in energy drinks have a number of harmful effects on kids.