Drink Water This Summer...
I declare war on sports drinks, especially Gatorade/Powerade! I will not back down! As a pediatric dentist, I am a first-hand observer of the onslaught that energy drinks command over dental enamel. Sports drinks take no prisoners, and are masterfully, yet ruthlessly, targeted to pre-teens and teenagers. With Georgia’s hot weather and summer and sports camps right around the corner, I urge you to fight the good fight against having your child drink sports drinks. Even our Surgeon General, Dr. Regina Benjamin, issued a warning against these drinks.
Let alone the inordinate amount of sugar found in sports drinks (actually all juices!), the citric acid content is extremely high, which will cause enamel erosion on teeth on a scale not seen by any other food/beverage. The acidity level is similar to that of stomach acid. Enamel erosion is permanent and affects primary teeth (baby teeth) with a vengeance. This leads to severe early childhood dental caries.
Juice and sports drinks, consumed early in childhood, leads to a taste for sweet beverages when thirsty later in life. A diet counseling goal in my office is to reiterate to parents that by encouraging a young child to drink only water or plain milk, the child will hopefully develop an aversion to how SWEET! sports drinks, juice, and soda taste. In turn, that child will most likely reach for water when thirsty; come teenage years he or she will always reach for water. What a great goal! I always ask children at school - health seminars or in my office, “what do trees drink?” They always answer correctly, WATER! I tell them “and look how tall a tree grows,” then add, “…if a tree drank juice or Gatorade, it would grow sideways, and fall over.” I tell them that to grow tall like a tree, drink water!
We tend to think that Gatorade is superior over water in hydrating our body. This is only true if a person is severely dehydrated, which is not likely. For young children playing intense outdoor sports, like soccer, football, or basketball during the summer months, luke-warm water is truly the best hydrator. Pairing that up with a banana or melon for potassium is a wonderful combination. Why luke-warm water? Ice-cold water actually needs to be warmed up by the stomach before it is absorbed, which takes energy, thereby only making you hotter.
I unfortunately see many young athletes sipping on Gatorade through the night, leading to severe enamel erosion and tooth decay. These children, so susceptible to marketing, always see Gatorade jugs next to sidelines during professional sporting events. You can’t blame a child for thinking that Gatorade is healthy and is an energy booster. Next time you see those jugs at professional sporting events, remember to point out to your children that those jugs are simply filled with water, and that professional athletes are water-pounding machines that have grown into human trees!
Have a great, water-filled summer!
Dr. Aaron Schwartz
Diplomate, American Board of Pediatric Dentistry
Schwartz Dentistry for Children and Young Adults