Teenagers with otherwise healthy lifestyles consume large amounts of sports drinks and high-calorie fruit drinks, probably because they believe the products are “healthy,” according to scientists from the University of Texas.
To reach these conclusions, Nalini Ranjit and colleagues surveyed 15,000 students attending grades 8-11 during academic year 2004-2005. The survey asked about dietary and exercise habits, as well as time spent watching TV, playing video games and using computers.
The scientists found that teens who preferred flavored and sports beverages (FSBs) over soda tended to exercise harder and more frequently, and to consume truly healthy foods more often.
“The most likely explanation for these findings is that FSBs have been successfully marketed as beverages consistent with a healthy lifestyle, to set them apart from sodas,” Ranjit’s team concluded in their write-up, which appears in Pediatrics.
FSBs contain miniscule amounts of fruit juice and about the same amount of sugar as carbonated soda.
The link between FSB intake and a healthy diet turned out to be stronger in girls. Girls who consumed 3 or more FSBs per day were more likely to consume more milk, fruit and vegetables.
The link between FDB intake and exercise was more apparent in boys. Boys who consumed 3 or more FSBs per day engaged in more vigorous exercise and participated more regularly in gym class and organized sports.
Commenting on the team’s findings for MedPage Today, Vanderbilt University sports medicine expert Alex Diamond said that, “marketing has a great deal to do with the perception that sports drinks are generally healthy. They have a role when it comes to prolonged activity or exercise, but on a regular basis, it’s not something kids should be drinking just to get hydration.”