Sports Drinks ≠ Fitness

Sports drinks are iconic at athletic events. It’s a great event marketing strategy that supports an incredible range of both spectator and participatory sports. It gives brands like Gatorade a powerful halo of health and fitness. The result is a healthy growth rate of 7% in a market where sugary soft drinks are otherwise declining.

This might not be a good thing for the health of our youth. Alison Field and colleagues just published a new prospective study in Obesity that shows every daily serving of a sports drink links to an 0.3 unit increase in BMI for boys and girls between the ages of 9 and 16 over a period of 2-3 years. The effect was even more pronounced in boys who increased their consumption of sports drinks during the study.

New data from the population-based study, Eating and Activity in Teens, sheds more light on this relationship. In this cohort from Minnesota, about 15% of teens consume sports drinks at least once a week. In those youth, the investigators found significantly more participation in organized sports and moderate to vigorous physical activity. But they also found a strong link to smoking, video games, and consumption of other sugar-sweetened beverages. It’s a picture that mingles both guilt and virtue by association.

The glow of a halo can be blinding.

Click here for the new study in Obesity and here for the publication from the Eating and Activity in Teens study.

Hydration Station, photograph © anique / flickr

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