Tuesday 20 March 2018

Sports drinks not the tonic for teens

Children and teenagers need to stay hydrated during exercise but old-fashioned water, and not sugary drinks, is the answer, says obesity expert Prof Donal O'Shea.

He would like to see more sports clubs ban their young players from consuming these high-calorie drinks while training or playing.

It may be difficult to enforce but Strand Celtic soccer club in Sligo has already imposed the ban.

Prof O'Shea, a consultant endocrinologist in Loughlinstown Hospital, Co Dublin, said: "It would be great if other underage sports clubs could adopt a similar approach. According to the American College of Paediatrics these kinds of sugared drinks should be considered toxic in children -- it really is that potentially harmful.

"We know these sports drinks are just another source of calories for children and young people that they don't need. They are being advertised in a way that suggests they enhance performance for everyone.

"The fact is that these sports drinks help only elite athletes at the peak of their fitness and at the extreme of their effort. For most adults and children taking part in recreational sport, water is perfect for hydration and drinking up to 400 calories, in some cases, when you have run around a soccer pitch for an hour, takes away some of the benefits you get from the exercise."

He added: "Diet and obesity must be tackled on many fronts. It is the heavy advertising of these sports drinks, which are high in sugar and calories, which is creating demand and influencing these young athletes."

The recent 'Growing Up in Ireland' study of nine-year-olds showed 53pc of children had consumed at least one non-diet soft drink in the previous 24-hour period.

France has decided to put a sugar tax on fizzy drinks and although the Department of Health here said it was looking at a similar move it could prove politically unpopular.

The best drinks for children to have are water and milk because they don't contain added sugar. Milk also contains important vitamins and minerals.

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