More than half of teens are drinking sports beverages weekly, but daily use is declining, according to a new study.
Sports drinks are meant to help athletes replenish electrolytes and carbohydrates, but flavored drinks also tend to have high sugar content, which has been linked with weight gain and diabetes, authors wrote in the study “Adolescent Consumption of Sports Drinks” (Cordrey K, et al. Pediatrics. May 7, 2018, https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2017-2784).
In a 2011 clinical report, the Academy said while there may be some benefit to limited use during strenuous activity, water often is best for the average child.
To look at trends in sports drink consumption, researchers analyzed data from the 2010 National Youth Physical Activity and Nutrition Survey and the 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, which included identical questions about sports drink consumption. More than 11,000 high school students from around the country were represented in each survey.
The 2015 survey showed odds of daily consumption were twice as high for males compared to females and higher for black and Hispanic teens compared to white. Athletes and teens watching TV more than two hours a day were more likely to drink sports beverages daily compared to non-athletes and teens watching less TV.
Some of the differences like those based on gender and TV watching may be attributed to the nature of marketing campaigns, which authors said are aggressive and often feature top sports teams and their stars.
In 2015, 57.6% of teens reported drinking a sports beverage in the past week, up from 56% in 2010. Bans on soda in high schools may have unintentionally driven weekly rates up, according to the study.
However, daily sports drink consumption dropped from 16.1% to 13.8%, and all age, sex and racial groups saw declines. The findings come as teens also are drinking less non-diet soda.
“These findings collectively reveal that teenagers are increasingly recognizing that SSBs (sugar-sweetened beverages) may be consumed occasionally but should not be a daily beverage choice,” authors wrote.
While black teens had the highest rates of daily use, they also saw the biggest reductions. Overweight teens dropped their daily consumption, but use increased for those who were obese or watched the most TV.
“This is of particular concern given the overall increase in the rates of obesity among children and adolescents and national efforts to combat obesity rates by limiting soda consumption,” authors wrote.
They recommended that pediatricians educate parents and teens about sugar content in sports drinks and encourage them to hydrate with water.