Are Sports Drinks Just as Bad as Soft Drinks?
I speak to hundreds of elementary and preschool students every year about their oral health. My favorite part of these visits is the Question and Answer portion. I ask questions like, “How many times a day should you brush your teeth?” and “What are some drinks that are bad for your teeth?” You can only imagine the hilarious commentary I receive from a room full of second-graders. In response to my question about unhealthy drinks, “pop” or “soda” is always the first answer. Sometimes I’ll hear “juice” or “chocolate milk”. Then, I tell students that sports drinks have almost as much sugar as soft drinks. At times, the teachers look just as surprised as the students.
Are sports drinks as bad as soft drinks? Let’s take a look at the numbers:
- 20-ounce Coca-Cola 65 grams of sugar
- 32-ounce Gatorade 56 grams of sugar
- 20-ounce Coca-Cola 240 calories
- 32-ounce Gatorade 214 calories
- Most soft drinks and energy drinks = pH (acidity level) of 3.0-3.1
- Gatorade = pH level of 2.9 (which means it is MORE acidic)
Gatorade recently announced the release of Gatorade Zero, a sugar-free sports drink. After over a half century of dominating the sports drink market, Gatorade has recently seen a decrease in sales and market share. With more people focusing on healthy drink alternatives, this response could not only be good for Gatorade sales and their parent company (Pepsi), but consumers’ teeth as well.
What do the experts say about sugar consumption in children?
· The American Heart Association says that children ages 4 to 8 should consume less than 16 grams of sugar/day and adolescents should consume less than 25 grams/day
o Even one half bottle of Gatorade or soft drink has more sugar than any child or teenager should consume in an ENTIRE day!
· The American Academy of Pediatricians says, “100% fruit juice has no essential role in a healthy diet for children.”
o I recommend healthier juice options (<10 g sugar/serving) to my patients
In summary, are sports drinks as bad as soft drinks? Not quite, but sugared versions of sports drinks, soft drinks and fruit juices are not healthy choices for anyone, especially children and teens. Their combination of sugar and acidity is incredibly detrimental to teeth and the number one cause of cavities in these age groups. Please consider healthier options (like Gatorade Zero, Honest Kids Juice, flavored water or just regular old water) when hydrating your kids this summer.
Cheers to dental health,
Dr. Cliff Moore