Sports drink hydration claims being overblown medical journal reports

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 9th August 2012

The British Medical Journal has reported that functional health claims for sports drinks are being overstated.

In particular the report criticises the claim of many sports drinks to be “essential for hydration.”

The report said that sports drinks companies have employed or sponsored scientists, to develop a whole area of science dedicated to hydration. “These same scientists advise influential sports medicine organisations, which have developed guidelines that have filtered down to everyday health advice,” said the British Medical Journal.

The British Medical Journal said the sponsored science has consequently “spread fear about the dangers of dehydration.”

Sports and energy drinks have become the fastest growing sector in the UK soft drinks market in recent years.

The investigations editor for the British Medical Journal, Deborah Cohen, pointed out that large beverage multinationals are using their marketing resources to promote higher consumption. The best known are associated with PepsiCo, which bought Gatorade in 2001, and both Coca-Cola and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) have their own sports drinks—Powerade and Lucozade respectively.

She also said that the influence of the brands extends to prominent athletics training facilities. The Australian Institute of Sport has sponsorship by Gatorade, and likewise other major sports medicine organisations also have sponsorship or endorsement relationships with large sports drinks.

“The key behind the meteoric rise in consumption of sports drinks lies in the coupling of science with creative marketing,” said Ms Deborah Cohen’s report in the British Medical Journal.

Associate Professor Tim Noakes, a professor of exercise and sports science at Cape Town University said that sports drink companies have successfully marketed the idea that hydration was critical for athletic performance and that the body does not indicate it is getting thirsty before it becomes dehydrated.

The British Medical Journal article disputes marketing claims and says that thirst is the best indicator for when to drink, and that water is a better choice.

Associate Professor Tim Noakes is quoted as saying that sports drinks also contribute to unnecessary calorie intake. He said that if “athletes avoided the sports drinks, they would get thinner and run faster.”

Link to article