Sports Drinks, Flavored Beverages could Undermine Your Child's Health

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

Consuming sugary sports drinks could be undermining childhood health say researchers from University of Texas. Healthy active youth who eat a healthy diet, also have a tendency to drink large amounts of flavored beverages and sports drinks that could sabotage health and lead to obesity.

In a study, researchers looked at consumption of carbonated, non-carbonated and sugar and corn syrup sweetened drink consumption among 8th and 11th grade Texas students. The scientists analyzed activity levels, food consumption and the relationship of sports drinks and other beverages that don’t contain juice in the daily diet of teens. They found that higher activity levels and healthy food was also linked to increased intake of sports drinks. For lower activity level teens and those who eat less health food, soda was the drink of choice.

The findings come from University of Texas School of Public Health, and led by Nalini Ranjit, PhD an assistant professor of behavioral sciences at the school. According to Dr. Ranjit, “Children and parents associate these drinks with a healthy lifestyle despite their increased amount of sugar and lack of nutritional value.

Sports Drinks High in Calories, Provoke Weight Gain

Ranjit points out that sports drinks are consistently marketed as healthy, when in fact “they have minimal fruit juice and contain unnecessary calories”. Advertising sets them apart from sodas, but they are still high calorie sugar laden drinks.


According to the CDC, 19 percent of children age 2 to 19 in the US are in the upper percentile of body mass index (BMI). Sugar laden drinks are thought to be a contributing factor to obesity, making the message from the study important.

The study revealed 28 percent of children in Texas drink 3-4 sports drinks daily, putting them at high risk for obesity. Ranjit warns that just one sugary beverage a day could mean ten pounds of weight gain in one year. Nutritionists at UTHealth add that a glass of 100 percent fruit juice is high in calories, and should also be limited to one per day.

Sports drinks should be reserved to replenish calories from extreme exercise say the study authors. The researchers also say fruit is a better option that drinking fruit juice. For replenishing lost fluids, water is recommended.

Ranjit recommends parents educate themselves about the unhealthy effects of sports drinks that are no better than soda. When it comes to sports and flavored drinks, there is a “misperception” that can negatively impact the health of youth. The sugar and high calories can lead to obesity, undermining the positive effects of exercise and a healthy diet.