Sugary drinks are hiding under a 'health halo'
Researchers investigated the growing and often confusing list of supplements added to the drinks. In most cases, they found, the beverages provide little or no health benefits, and might be dangerous.
"Despite the positive connotation surrounding energy and sports drinks, these products are essentially sodas without the carbonation," said Patricia Crawford, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Nutritional Sciences and Toxicology at UC Berkeley.
The study looked at 21 popular drinks touted by manufacturers as "health and performance enhancing." In addition to sugar, caffeine, non-caloric sweeteners, sodium, vitamins and minerals, some drinks included the supplements guarana, ginseng, taurine, gingko biloba and ginger extract. Of the five herbal supplements, only ginger extract is classified as "likely safe" for children, Crawford said.
Because they contain caffeine, marketers promote the beverages as improving energy, concentration, endurance and performance. The study, however, documented harmful effects, such as increasing stress, nervousness, anxiety, headaches, insomnia, tremors, hallucinations and seizures.
"(Drink manufacturers') health marketing claims are the 21st Century equivalent of selling snake oil," said Harold Goldstein of the California Center for Public Health Advocacy, which commissioned the study.
The full report is at http://www.publichealthadvocacy.org/healthhalo.html.