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01 October 2012

Sports drinks implicated in weight gain for teens

Sports drinks, just like soda, are independently associated with weight gain in young people, according to a new study.

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Sports drinks, just like soda, are independently associated with weight gain in young people, according to a new prospective study.

"Although sports drinks were not included in the negotiations between the Alliance for a Healthier Generation and the American Beverage Association to remove soft drinks from schools, our data shows that sports drinks are independent predictors of weight gain and should be limited similar to other sugar-sweetened beverages," Dr Alison E Field of the Harvard School of Public Health and her colleagues say.

They presented the findings this week at the Obesity Society's Annual Meeting in San Antonio, Texas.

Sports drinks 'unnecessary'

"I agree with the findings," said Dr Holly Benjamin, director of primary care sports medicine at the University of Chicago. "Sports drinks are an unnecessary part of a routine diet. They can contain unnecessary calories in the form of carbohydrate or sugar and both carbohydrate containing and low-carbohydrate forms of sports drinks have a high acidity that is associated with dental erosion."

Dr Field and her colleagues looked at 5 995 girls and 4 906 boys participating in the Growing Up Today Study II, who ranged in age from nine to 16 when they enrolled. They provided information on their beverage intake, weight and height in 2004, 2006, 2008, and 2011, and on dieting in 2008.

No to sport, energy and sugar sweetened beverages

On average, the study participants consumed 1.1 servings of sports drink per week, 2.5 servings of sugar-sweetened soda, and 1.3 servings per week of diet soda. The authors found a modest correlation between body mass index (BMI) and diet soda consumption at baseline, but no association between BMI and sports drink or regular soda consumption.

Over time, however, both diet soda and sports drinks were associated with increases in BMI. Study participants gained an average of 0.03 kg/m2 per serving per week for both beverages, independent of gender, age, stage of puberty, time spent watching TV, and physical activity. P values were 0.002 for sports drinks and <0.0001 for diet soda.

The researchers also looked at BMI change between 2008 and 2011, adjusted for dieting. The correlation between BMI increase and diet soda disappeared, but was strengthened for sports drinks (0.10 kg/m2 per serving/week, p=0.02) and regular soda (0.05 kg/m2 per serving/week, p=0.05).

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) discourages consumption of sports drinks, energy drinks, and sugar-sweetened beverages by children, Dr Benjamin noted. "The AAP recommends that water be freely available in school settings and encourages the daily recommended intake of low fat milk," she added. "Calories should be eaten in the form of healthy food, not consumed in the form of an unhealthy sugar sweetened beverage."

(Reuters Health, September 2012)

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