Clear distinctions must be made between the properties of sports drinks containing caffeine and those of energy drinks not specifically targeted at athletes, trade association the European Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance (ESSNA) has said.
The statement is in response to growing concern among public health officials about the problems associated with the consumption of high-sugar energy drinks among children. Nearly 70% of UK children aged 10 to 17 years old consume energy drinks.
In light of the recent UK House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee’s oral evidence session on the health effects of energy drinks, ESSNA, the sports nutrition industry’s representative trade association across Europe, aims to correct misconceptions.
ESSNA chair Adam Carey said: “It’s important to first and foremostly remember that the majority of sports drinks (by sales volume) do not contain caffeine. Those that do will contain 200mg or less, a dosage level found to be safe by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).
“When caffeine is used in sports products, it is targeted at healthy, physically active adults, and carefully dosed and presented for use during endurance exercise – the benefits of which have been validated by EFSA. There is growing evidence that caffeine may be beneficial in other areas too.
“Similarly, sports drinks will usually have a specific level of carbohydrate content, which is lower than many energy drinks or other soft drinks, and benefits of which have also been recognised by EFSA in the context of physical activity.”
He added: “Sports nutrition products containing caffeine and carbohydrates, unlike energy drinks, are designed and used by consumers for activities which increase the body’s nutritional and physiological needs. They are designed to be used specifically before, during and/or after exercise and are typically used to replace electrolytes and macronutrients.
“They are certainly not used to replace sleep or a healthy lifestyle, which is the main issue of concern with energy drinks; that consumers use them whenever they feel they need an ‘energy’ effect. It is crucial that a clear distinction is made between the two; sports drinks are entirely different from caffeinated energy drinks in composition, use and marketing, and it’s time we stopped using both terms interchangeably.”
Carey added that the marketing of sports drinks is clear in explaining the right conditions for product consumption and is targeted at people engaged in physical activity.
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