Advertisements for sports drinks usually claim that the neon-colored tonics are better at replenishing and rehydrating athletes' bodies than water. The connection between sports drinks and physical fitness has been marketed so successfully that a study published on the web today in Pediatrics shows teens with otherwise healthy lifestyles often consume them in large quantities, despite the beverages' sugar content often rivaling traditional sodas.
In the study (subscription required), researchers surveyed more than 15,000 middle and high school students in Texas about their consumption of various foods and beverages and the number of days or hours they engaged in different actives. The results showed teens that drank sports drinks over sodas exercised harder and were more likely to eat healthy foods. But researchers said there was still cause for concern about adolescents' consumption of the beverages. They wrote:
The high level of consumption of [sugar-sweetened beverage] among adolescents has generated considerable concern because of its potential to increase weight gain. It has been estimated that daily consumption of just 1 12-oz can of soda or other [sugar-sweetened beverage] could lead to as much as a 15-lb weight gain in 1 year. In light of this figure, our findings relating to the high prevalence and level of soda and other [sugar-sweetened beverage] consumption among 8th- and 11th-grade children are troubling. Approximately 10% of these children reported consuming [greater than] 3 sodas on the previous day. Average consumption of [sugar-sweetened beverage] across all children is [approximately] 1.6 servings per day; this is likely an under-estimate, because the questions related to consumption ... did not include other beverages such as energy drinks or sweetened milk drinks, which frequently contain high levels of sugar.