Monday, January 20, 2014

Energy drinks

Did you know that a 500ml can of "relentless", one of many so-called energy drinks, contains 56% of the average adult's daily guideline amount of sugar? I always assumed they had a pretty high sugar and caffeine content, but 56%!

I got thinking about this as I watched a BBC Breakfast News report about energy drinks and young people. The debate was centred around banning or not banning these sorts of drinks for younger individuals and the "soft drinks" industry duly made all the right noises about them not being appropriate for anyone under 16 (although apparently one drink states on its label that it's not suitable for anyone under 3!), and the need for parental vigilance. But let's be honest, if my mum had told me not to drink Coke when I was 14 would I have listened? I think you all know the answer to that.

The good news is that today's generation has way more information available to them about nutrition and the affect of sugar and caffeine etc on their health. The fact that they are still teenagers mitigates against making the best choices, but that's just how it is.

The truth is that while we are better informed than we ever were, we're still human and we don't make positive choices easily. Just because you can make a soft drink with 50g of sugar in it and 32mg/100ml caffeine doesn't mean necessarily that you should! Typically a standard can of Coke contains about 30mg caffeine and 16g sugar. A medium latte weighs in at 12.8g sugar and 150mg caffeine (Starbucks tall). But how many 15 year old would get through 2 or 3 lattes in a day compared to 2 or 3 cans of sugar filled carbonated caffeine water?

Maybe we will have to start labelling these drinks with their ingredients and side-effects in larger print, limit their age availability and put them behind closed doors as we've tried to do with cigarettes. I've yet to see the shutters down over the tobacco supplies in several well-know stores, so I'm a little sceptical about the impact of such measures.

What kept me from smoking was learning about the affect it had on health. Perhaps, if we taught more nutrition, improved understanding of what contributes to a healthy diet, then we could address many of the worries and concerns about fast food, energy drinks and other issues our western diet faces.

I recently did a couple of seminars about nutrition and when I asked the audience "What is nutrition?", the perceived understanding was that nutrition was about healthy stuff. Until we understand that nutrition is about everything we eat and drink we won't make much headway on issues surrounding what our young people are choosing to eat and drink.

Wel, I'm off for a glass of water before running around a tennis court for an hour or so. I won't be reaching for the Red Bull, Lucozade or even an isotonic, isolytic sports drink to keep me going. Just a bottle of water and a oxygen tank!

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