Sports drinks and energy drinks have become increasingly popular, especially as more and more people participate in sports and exercise programs. The increased use of these products is not limited to adults. They are now being marketed to children and adolescents.

Sports drinks and energy drinks have become increasingly popular, especially as more and more people participate in sports and exercise programs.


The increased use of these products is not limited to adults. They are now being marketed to children and adolescents.


A clinical report by the American Academy of Pediatrics recently addressed this question: Are sports and energy drinks appropriate for children and adolescents?


Sports drinks were defined as "beverages that may contain carbohydrates, minerals, electrolytes and flavoring and are intended to replenish water and electrolytes lost through sweating during exercise."


Examples of sports drinks are Gatorade and Powerade.


The authors of the report stated that the carbohydrates present in sports drinks were of major concern. Some contain up to 270 calories per serving. This high caloric intake increases the child's risk of becoming obese.


A proposed reason for using sports drinks is that they contain electrolytes, vitamins and minerals that are beneficial, especially when a child is engaging in sports activities. However, the report stated that these drinks do not provide any greater advantage over just plain water, which does not have the added risk of extra calories.


Energy drinks were defined as "beverages that contain substances that act as non-nutritive stimulants such as caffeine, guarana, taurine, ginseng, L-carnitine, creatine and/or glucuronolactone." Examples of these drinks include Red Bull, Java Monster and Power Trip.


The presence of caffeine in energy drinks is a concern. Caffeine increases heart rate, blood pressure, motor activity, gastric secretions, perspiration and temperature, acting as a stimulant.


The report concluded that the sale of caffeinated products like energy drinks should be prohibited in schools. This plea for prohibiting such drinks in schools comes at a time when the sales of sports and energy drinks have significantly increased.


The report concludes that sports and energy drinks should only be used "when there is a need for more rapid replenishment of carbohydrates and/or electrolytes in combination with water during periods of prolonged, vigorous sports participation or other intense physical activity."


And water, not sports or energy drinks, should be promoted as the principal source of hydration in children and adolescents.


Dr. Murray Feingold is the physician in chief of The Feingold Center for Children in Massachusetts, medical editor of WBZ-TV and WBZ radio, and president of the Genesis Fund. The Genesis Fund is a nonprofit organization that funds the care of children born with birth defects, mental retardation and genetic diseases.