Are sports drinks damaging our children’s health?

sports drinks and tooth decayYou may have heard about the sugar levy being applied to soft drinks. It’s a welcome step for UK health experts who see it as an important part of tackling the problems of obesity and the unacceptable levels of tooth decay amongst the nation’s children.

Sports drinks can do more harm than good

To date, though, one group of high sugar content drinks has avoided being included in the levy because they’re targeted at adult athletes. Sports drinks arguably sound healthy, simply because they contain the word sport in the name but, in reality, unless you’re an adult athlete in training they’re likely to do more harm than good. This particularly applies to children who receive no benefit from the drinks at all and risk damaging their general and oral health.

A study recently carried out in South Wales amongst 183 adolescents and published in the British Dental Journal indicated that, although the majority of the young participants realised that the drinks could be detrimental to their health they still drank them. More importantly, they believed that the drinks were not solely targeted at adults and that the marketing was aimed at them, as young people, which goes some way to explaining why 89% of those asked said they consumed sports drinks.

“Cynical marketing is driving demand”

Chairman of the British Dental Association, Mick Armstrong, is backing the organisation in calling on the government to include sports drinks in the soft drinks industry levy. Tooth decay is the single biggest reason children are admitted to hospital in the UK so it’s no surprise when he states: “Big business is getting away with targeting children with products designed for athletes… cynical marketing is driving demand and it’s time we drew a line.”

Including the drinks in the levy is clearly an important first step and the Welsh study also suggests that the industry need to play a more active role and, “consider marketing and reformulation of products for adolescent customers who appear to enjoy them”.