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No ‘Health Halo’ for Sports Drinks

No ‘Health Halo’ for Sports Drinks

Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) is opposing proposed changes to food regulations that would see sports drinks marketed as healthy.

The Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) is consulting on proposals that electrolyte drinks (EDs) be allowed to carry health claims about hydration and replenishment of carbohydrates and electrolytes after sustained exercise.

ARPHS Medical Officer of Health Dr Michael Hale said the service has made a submission to FSANZ warning there will be more negative health outcomes for the population if EDs are promoted as a ‘healthier’ alternative.

The consumption of sports drinks is increasing amongst children and adolescents in New Zealand, where they are available in dairies, supermarkets, schools and vending machines. The sugar content is contributing to the region’s high numbers of overweight and obese people, including a third of all children, and to high rates of children’s hospital admissions for tooth decay.

“While most people were aware that fizzy drinks were bad for your health, many do not realise that the drinks contained similar amounts of sugar to soft drink – around 15 teaspoons per bottle,” said Dr Hale.

“Children and adolescents are drinking them every week, and yet very few would be exercising strenuously for longer than 90 minutes at the same time, where any benefit might be shown,” he said.

For most adults and children undertaking regular exercise, water is the best form of fluid replacement. An average healthy diet provides all the electrolytes needed, including those required from a standard sports game or training.

“Marketers are trying to promote these drinks by giving them a ’health halo’, said Dr Hale. Research shows that when marketers make a claim their product is healthy, consumers do not look at the overall healthiness of the food and in this case, underestimate the calorie intake and the high sugar and sodium content.

Dr Hale said that adolescents are already taken in by the supposed ‘health benefits’ of EDs. ”Liberalising the FSANZ standards so sports drinks can advertise a health claim poses a serious public health risk, given our rising obesity epidemic.”


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