Despite the health risks, parents are stockpiling gatorade and similar ‘sports’ drinks as kids head back to school and back on the field.
Despite the American Academy of Paediatrics and many other reputable organisations, including the Connecticut state government, attempting to limit consumption of the sugary beverages, sports drinks experienced a 35 percent spike in sales over the course of five weeks leading up to school starting thus year. The numbers come courtesy of a recent Nielsen insights report in which parents appear to be apathetic towards increased dental costs and obesity rates.
“Given the current epidemic of childhood overweight and obesity, we recommend the elimination of calorie-containing beverages from a well-balanced diet,” reads the official AAP stance on sports drinks, which carries a notable caveat: Low-fat or fat-free milk, given its Calcium & Vitamin D content.
Though some research indicates that certain young athletes may benefit from the combination of carbohydrates, protein, or electrolytes sports drinks offer, those studies are greatly outnumbered by studies accentuating the opposite. For most kids engaged in routine physical activities, doing an impression of that awesome Gatorade sweat ad merely translates into empty calories and extra trips to the dentist. Still, all that slurping is understandable if you look at the market; given that most schools have phased out selling sodas, beverage manufacturers have been pushing sports drinks, which have become the third-fastest growing beverage category in the U.S. after bottled water and energy drinks since 2006.
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Since that time, some school districts have fought policy battles over sports drinks. Connecticut banned them from schools along with soda in 2006 and the The U.S. Agriculture Department launched an initiative to get Gatorade and drinks like it out of schools in 2013. But all that legislative effort is largely pointless if parents are going to send kids with sports drinks in their back packs anyways.
Still, the Nielsen data wasn’t all bad news and shows that parents are at least paying more attention to labels. They found that consumers spend 37 percent more on sports drinks that are free of artificial sweeteners and 19 percent more on drinks free of sugar in the same five-week back to school period. The absence of artificial colours and the presence of antioxidant properties also boosted sales 25 and 29 percent, respectively. And the most popular item of all were apples with $243.5 million in sales.