Parents Talk: Energy, Sports and Soft Drinks for Children
Too expensive and unhealthy?
I’m not a health nut or super-particular about what my kids eat but I cringe when I see a child drinking soda, a so-called “health” drink or, even worse, a cappuccino.
Maybe it’s because I was raised to think of those types of drinks are a treat, something for special occasions, or maybe it’s because I’m cheap.
Whatever the reason, when my kids were younger, juice or water, or sometimes for a twist, juice and water, were the main drinks of choice, rounded out by milk (non-dairy, due to allergies) and lemonade, rarely Kool-Aid.
I even balked at letting my children drink iced tea.
Part of my concern was based on health. The other part was pure self-preservation – I didn’t want to deal with a kid who was hyper from sugar and caffeine.
My kids are happy to report that I have since relaxed my standards, occasionally allowing soda, tea and sometimes Gatorade.
But a recent medical report supports my accidental-health consciousness. I was even shocked enough to reconsider my recent laxity.
Saying that sports and energy drinks are being marketed to children and adolescents for a wide variety of “inappropriate uses,” the American Academy of Pediatrics published a report this week on the use of sports and energy drinks for children.
“Rigorous review and analysis of the literature reveal that caffeine and other stimulant substances contained in energy drinks have no place in the diet of children and adolescents. Furthermore, frequent or excessive intake of caloric sports drinks can substantially increase the risk for overweight or obesity in children and adolescents,” the report states.
Score one for cheap Mom.
“Children and adolescents should be taught to drink water routinely as an initial beverage of choice as long as daily dietary caloric and other nutrient (eg, calcium, vitamins) needs are being met. Water is also generally the appropriate ﬁrst choice for hydration before, during, and after most exercise regimens,” according to the report.
Score two for cheap Mom.
Another problem with sports and energy drinks is dental erosion in children and adolescents. According to the report, one study found enamel erosion in 57 percent of 11- to 14- year-olds in a cluster sample of adolescents.
About caffeine? The report is unequivocal: “Because of the potentially harmful adverse effects and developmental effects of caffeine, dietary intake should be discouraged for all children.”
According to the report, the total amount of caffeine contained in some cans or bottles of energy drinks can exceed 500 mg (equivalent to 14 cans of common caffeinated soft drinks) and is “clearly high enough to result in caffeine toxicity.”
Concerns regarding the use of caffeine in children, according to the report, include its known role in triggering arrhythmias, its effects on the developing neurologic and cardiovascular systems and the risk of a physical dependence and addiction to caffeine.
Consumption of these drinks is a growing, according to the AAP report.
One study cited in the report of 78 adolescents found that 56 percent used sports drinks and 42 percent consumed energy drinks during the two weeks before the survey.
The information about children and soft drinks is older but still relevant. In a 2004 policy statement about soft drinks in school, the AAP listed the potential health problems associated with high intake of sweetened drinks: overweight or obesity attributable to additional calories in the diet; displacement of milk consumption, resulting in calcium deficiency with an attendant risk of osteoporosis and fractures; and dental caries and potential enamel erosion.
Overweight is now the most common medical condition of childhood, with the prevalence having doubled over the past 20 years. Nearly 1 of every 3 children is at risk of overweight, and 1 of every 6 is overweight, according to the policy statement.
The main problem is that by drinking sugared soft drinks, children are consuming more calories than they should; and soda has replaced healthier alternatives like milk or juice, according to the AAP.
And, as with sports and energy drinks, more people are consuming soft drinks more: Soft drink consumption increased by 300 percent in 20 years, and serving sizes have increased from 6.5 oz in the 1950s to 12 oz in the 1960s and 20 oz by the late 1990s.
“Between 56 percent and 85 percent of children in school consume at least one soft drink daily, with the highest amounts ingested by adolescent males. Of this group, 20 percent consume four or more servings daily," the report states
More surprising: each 12-ounce sugared soft drink consumed daily has been associated with a 0.18-point increase in a child’s BMI and a 60 percent increase in risk of obesity, associations not found with “diet” (sugar-free) soft drinks, according to the policy statement.
I’m beginning to think that my accidental-health consciousness was pure genius.
What do you think?