The Misconception of Sports Drinks

Having all but removed drinking water from the equation, sports drinks have recently become the most desired means of hydration for fitness oriented individuals. Subsequently, their current reign at the top of the industry is due, largely in part, to a decisive and persuasive marketing campaign targeting the average consumer. Furthermore, manufactures of such products claim that their sports drinks offer people the ability to replenish lost fluids at a faster rate than that of water alone. Of significant concern, however, is a distinct lack of credible evidence that supports these claims. According to a study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), claims made by sports drink manufacturers my not only be void of truth, but they may coincide with the development of obesity as well.

Sports drinks represent a market that is projected to reach $2 billion in annual sales by the year 2016. Their success is due, largely in part, to a fabricated “war on water.” According to several world renown manufacturers, a combination of salt and sugar enables sports drinks to hydrate individuals much faster than drinking water alone. In doing so, sports drink manufacturers acknowledge that their products are more beneficial to athletes.

Companies claim that the sodium in sports drinks stimulates thirst, resulting in the consumption of a higher volume of fluid and better retention compared with drinking water. Their claims also rest on the physiological observation that the carbohydrate content of sports drinks aids water absorption from the small intestine. Consumers are told that another key benefit is the taste, as this encourages higher fluid intake.

However, in 2006, the European Union adopted new regulation that aimed “to ensure that consumers are not misled by unsubstantiated, exaggerated or untruthful claims about foodstuffs.” The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) was charged with assessing the evidence supporting health claims. In a recent investigation, the EFSA uncovered hundreds of studies that suggested a solution of salt and sugar could produce a beneficial hydration effects. However, an accompanying analysis of the studies found that the quality of the evidence was so poor that it was impossible to draw firm conclusions about the effects of the sports drinks.

In order to further understand these ambiguous claims, researchers at the Centre of Evidence Based Medicine at Oxford University assessed the evidence behind 431 performance enhancing claims in adverts for 104 different sports products including sports drinks, protein shakes and trainers. Upon the conclusion of their assessment, data revealed that only 2.7% of the studies conducted by sports drink manufacturers were of high quality. The lack of quality was attributed to the following:

  • Small sample sizes limited the applicability of results
  • Poor quality surrogate outcomes undermined the validity
  • Poorly designed research offered little to instill confidence in product claims
  • Data dredging lead to spurious statistical results
  • Biological outcomes did not necessarily correlate with improved performance
  • Inappropriate use of relative measures inflated the outcome and could be easily mislead
  • Studies that lack blinding are likely to be false
  • Manipulation of nutrition in the run-in phase significantly affected subsequent outcomes
  • Changes in environmental factors lead to wide variation in outcomes

According to the BMJ’s article, The Truth About Sports Drinks, there was no substantial evidence to suggest that liquid is any better than solid carbohydrate intake.

In addition to providing no clear benefits over water alone, sports drink consumption may contribute to obesity levels in certain populations. Of particular concern, are the effects that increased sugar levels may have on children. High levels of sugar introduced an an early age may place children at an increased risk of diabetes and obesity. A report in June 2012 by the US philanthropic organization, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, says that “the increased consumption of sports drinks in recent years is of growing concern for parents, health professionals, and public health advocates.”

While sports drinks are often confused as a healthy alternative to water, the large amounts of sugar and sodium contained within them may coincide with serious consequences. Misleading advertising combined with a healthy misconception leads consumers to drink more of the product than necessary, leading to a spike in sugar and sodium levels.

Do I Have a Sports Drink Lawsuit?

The trial lawyers at The Senators (Ret.) Firm, LLP have decades of experience navigating through complex legislative and regulatory issues and litigating high stakes cases all over the nation. Our law firm focuses on the representation of plaintiffs in sports drink lawsuits. We are currently accepting new cases in all 50 states.

If you or a loved one has been injured by a sports drink, you may be entitled to financial compensation. For a free case review, please click the link below or call toll free 24 hrs/day 1-(949) 557-5800.