Considering what we know about kids and sports drinks — briefly, that according to leading health groups like the American Academy of Pediatrics, most children should not be drinking them — the small silver lining, according to a recent study, is that kids who drink them tend to exercise more than those who don’t. But they were also more likely to do things that harm their health, too.
Nicole Larson and her colleagues at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health asked nearly 3000 students in grades 6 through 12 an exhaustive series of 235 questions and concluded that nearly 40% drank a sports drink at least once a week. Both boys and girls consuming sports drinks regularly were more likely to smoke and to play video games, the researchers found. They were also more likely to drink sugary soda and juice. The fact that sports and energy drink consumption are correlated with other risky behaviors, such as smoking, isn’t a surprise (though, to be clear, the researchers do not suggest a cause-effect relationship between the two).
As for the finding that the big sports-drink fans were also more likely to exercise and participate in organized sports? The researchers say that could be due to the fact that sports drink makers often partner with athletic groups to target adolescent athletes specifically.
Consumption of sports and energy drinks has tripled among teens in the past decade and about 12% of U.S. teens still drink a sports or energy drink on any given day. Taken together, the body of research suggests that athletes need to be better educated about the healthiest way to hydrate: drinking water.