Sports Drinks & Kids

The American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition and the Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness have issued a report in the June Pediatrics (1) that looks at the use of sports drinks and energy drinks for children and adolescents.
They conclude that these types of drinks are no better than water or skim milk and may have worrisome health effects. Especially worrisome are those that contain caffeine.
Sports drinks and energy drinks are different though frequently confused. One study (2) found that adolescents did not differentiate between sports and energy drinks and said they looked for the same benefits from both and did not base their use on athletic participation.
Marketing strategies for sports drinks suggest that they improve athletic performance and replace fluids and electrolytes lost in sweat. Sports drinks have varying amounts of sugar, minerals, electrolytes and sometimes vitamins and amino acids.
Energy drinks are marketed for boosting energy, decreased fatigue, enhanced concentration and mental alertness. They usually contain sugar and stimulants, such as caffeine and guarana as well as protein, amino acids, vitamins, sodium and other minerals.
These authorities concede that, "Caffeine has been shown to enhance physical performance in adults by increasing aerobic endurance and strength, improving reaction time, and delaying fatigue. However," they go on, "these effects are extremely variable, dose dependent, and, most importantly, have not been studied in children and adolescents." Caffeine also has lots of side effects including increased heart rate, blood pressure, anxiety, sleep disturbance and palpitations. A lethal dose of caffeine is considered to be 100-200 mg / lb body weight.
Guarana is a plant extract that contains caffeine. One gram of guarana is equal to approximately 40mg of caffeine.
The other ingredients of these drinks, sugar, proteins, vitamins, etc. are at best superfluous because they do not improve on what would be provided by any reasonable diet of real food.
The widespread use of sports and energy drinks is a testament to two things, the marketing genius of American industry, and something else.
1.Schneider M, Benjamin H, the Committee on Nutrition, and the Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness. Sports drinks and energy drinks for children and adolescents: Are they appropriate? Pediatrics 2011;127:1182-9.
2.O'Dea JA. Consumption of nutritional supplements among adolescents: usage and perceived benefits. Health Educ Res. 2003;18(1):98-107.