27 June 2016

Leading health charity, the Oral Health Foundation, have given their support to the Faculty of Sport and Exercise Medicine (FSEM) UK following the publication today [27 June 2016] of research which shows regular consumption of sports drinks is a serious risk to children's health.

The FSEM states that regular consumption of sports drinks by children, often for social reasons, could be having a detrimental effect on their health. This follows research by Cardiff University School of Dentistry showing a high proportion (68%) of 12-14 year olds are regularly consuming high sugar, sports drinks unnecessarily.

The research, published and freely available in the British Dental Journal, reinforces the Oral Health Foundation's position that there is a lack of awareness in the general public of the incredibly harmful effects some foods and drinks, which claim to have health benefits, have on our oral health. 

The charity is calling for more to be done to educate people about the dangers of hidden sugars so they have the knowledge to identify where they are and make a choice of a healthier alternative, such as water or milk.

Dr Ben Atkins, Trustee of the Oral Health Foundation, outlined why the unnecessary use of sports drinks is such a serious risk to children's oral health. 

Dr Atkins said: "This research is incredibly worrying, to have such a large amount of children choosing these drinks when they have no nutritional benefit whatsoever is a health ticking time bomb. The public are far too unaware of the dangers of sports drinks to our oral health and this all stems from a lack of knowledge on what is ‘healthy' and what isn't.

"Drinking sports drinks has become the social norm and this should most definitely not be the case, children absolutely should not have these drinks, they are designed for sporting professionals to aid performance. There is even strong evidence that their use by professional athletes contributes to high levels of tooth decay. 

"More than 33,000 children are admitted to hospital each year to have teeth removed under general anaesthetic, this is absolutely heartbreaking and we are in no doubt that some of this is due to a lack of knowledge around hidden sugars and misrepresentation of ‘healthy alternatives'."

"This is not a great surprise as they are also receiving incredibly mixed messages from people who should be protecting them. Take, for example, the proposed sugar tax. Under the proposals drinks such as Lucozade Sport will not be subject to taxation where in reality it's incredibly high levels of sugar and acid make it extremely dangerous to oral health.

"People have to understand that drinks like this have no nutritional benefits to children whatsoever. These drinks are designed for sports people and should not be marketed as anything else, they should not be seen as alternative to soft drinks or we are in danger of seeing our children's dental health crises get even worse."

Acids and sugars in sports drinks contribute to tooth decay; this happens when sugar reacts with the bacteria in plaque. This forms the acids that attack the teeth and destroy the enamel. Over time the tooth enamel breaks down, forming a hole or 'cavity' into the dentine. The tooth can then decay more quickly and often leads to having to get it filled or even removed.

The Oral Health Foundation is calling on the public to be aware of hidden sugars and opt for water or milk, which are more than sufficient for hydration, as these are the most tooth kind drinks. The charity also wants tighter regulation around the marketing of sports drinks to children as a ‘healthy' option over soft drinks. 

The charity also supports the FSEM in their call to stop supermarkets and shops selling sports drinks alongside other sugar sweetened beverages as it is misleading children and parents by indicating that they are a viable alternative.