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Regular Sports and Energy Drink Use By Teens Linked With Cluster of Unhealthy Behaviors

Media use, cigarette smoking, and consumption of sweetened beverages increase


Weekly consumption of sports drinks and energy drinks among adolescents is significantly associated with higher consumption of other sugar-sweetened beverages, cigarette smoking, and screen media use, according to a new study

Researchers from the University of Minnesota and Duke University  gathered data from 2,793 adolescents in 20 public middle schools and high schools in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area of Minnesota as part of a population-based study, Eating and Activity in Teens (EAT 2010) during the 2009-2010 school year. Energy drink cans

They found that, among boys, weekly sports drink consumption was significantly associated with higher TV viewing, with boys who regularly consumed sports drinks spending about one additional hour per week watching TV compared with boys who consumed sports drinks less than once per week. 

In addition, boys who consumed energy drinks at least weekly spent approximately four additional hours per week playing video games compared to those who consumed energy drinks less than once per week.

The study was undertaken to build understanding of health behavior patterns related to adolescent consumption of sports and energy drinks and inform intervention strategies to reduce consumption of these sugar-sweetened beverages.

Although national data have shown a decline in the prevalence of soft drink and fruit drink consumption, sports and energy drink consumption has tripled among adolescents in recent years. The high caffeine content of energy drinks, as well as the high sugar and calorie content of many sports and energy drinks, has drawn much concern from health professionals.

Among the measured variables in this study were height and weight; consumption frequency for sports drinks, energy drinks, and breakfast; time spent engaged in physical activity, playing video games, and watching television; and smoking status.

Although sports drink consumption was linked to higher levels of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity and sport participation, the overall pattern of associations indicated that sports and energy drink consumption should be addressed as part of a clustering of unhealthy behaviors among some adolescents, said lead author Nicole Larson, PhD, MPH, RDN, Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that sports drinks should be consumed by adolescents only after vigorous, prolonged activity, and that energy drinks should not be consumed at all because they offer no benefit and increase risks for overstimulation of the nervous system. Future research and interventions should target the clustering of related health risk behaviors and pursue more education to promote healthy hydration habits among youth.

Sources: University of Minnesota and Larson N, DeWolfe J, Story M, Neumark-Sztainer, D. Adolescent Consumption of Sports and Energy Drinks: Linkages to Higher Physical Activity, Unhealthy Beverage Patterns, Cigarette Smoking, and Screen Media Use. J Nutrition Ed. Behav, 2014;46(3). DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jneb.2014.02.008.