Jun 18, 2018

Dr. Gellner: You've probably heard a lot in the news lately about sports drinks and energy drinks. But do you know what the differences between them are? Are they even safe for kids? I'll help you figure out those questions on today's Scope. I'm Dr. Cindy Gellner.

Announcer: Keep your kids healthy and happy. You are now entering "The Healthy Kids Zone"; with Dr. Cindy Gellner on The Scope.

Dr. Gellner: It seems sports drinks and energy drinks are everywhere. But often, kids and their parents have a hard time figuring out which is which when you need one over the other, and should you have either one at all? So sports drinks are called that because they're usually associated with people who do sports, like all those athletes on the commercials endorsing them. Sports drinks have carbohydrates, electrolytes, and minerals. They are meant to replace water and salts lost during intense exercise. They come in a variety of fun and refreshing flavors, but they also come with a lot of sugar and extra calories.

If your child is an athlete that really works up a sweat, then sports drinks might be a good idea. They are not good for kids to use as a substitute for water if they're just hanging out with friends. With sports drinks, the main drawback is too many calories in a bottle. For the average child who is not doing a lot of physical activity, that 120 calories in a 20-ounce bottle is easy to drink. If you look on the label of that 20-ounce bottle, it's actually two and a half servings. Kids need a good balance of carbs, fat, and protein for growth and development. If they're not burning off those carbs with physical activity, then it's just like drinking a soda.

And what about those energy drinks? They have similar ingredients to sports drinks, but they get their name from stimulants such as caffeine, guarana, taurine, and other herbs that help give the drinkers more energy. While some kids think these are healthy alternatives to soda, they're really not. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration limits the caffeine content in sodas because they are food, but there is no regulation for energy drinks because they are considered dietary supplements.

Many energy drinks have more than three times the caffeine in them than soda. Drinking energy drinks has been linked to behavior and thought process problems, depression, substance use, heart and kidney failure, seizures, and even death. Neither of these beverages are good choices all the time. Actually, there's really no good time for energy drinks in kids, to be honest. For most kids, water is a better option. And actually, there are studies that show a better sports drink for athletes is actually low fat chocolate milk. How awesome is that?

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