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EDITORIAL: Take care in selecting products


No doubt certain products on store shelves pose potential dangers to our health.

In some cases, they might be everyday consumables that most wouldn’t question – until health professionals raise concerns.

The Canadian Paediatric Society issued a position Tuesday saying children and teens should stay away from sports and energy drinks. Part of the concern is the high sugar content, particularly in an age when so many foods and beverages are overloaded with sugar – a prime contributor to higher rates of obesity and tooth decay.

Another factor is the caffeine content of energy drinks, with one can typically containing more caffeine than regular brewed coffee. Cited in the news story as presented by The Canadian Press was the case of a South Carolina teen who collapsed on April 26 after downing an energy drink, a large pop and a cafe latte within a two-hour span. The boy had no pre-existing heart condition, according to the coroner, but likely died from a caffeine-induced heart arrhythmia.

These energy drinks are touted by manufacturers to provide a boost to stamina and help improve concentration – thus making them a ready choice among the student population during crunch times such as exams. Mixing with alcohol can further increase health risks.

Some of the side effects of regular use noted by the Paediatric Society include difficulty sleeping, increased anxiety, heart rhythm abnormalities, vomiting and diarrhea.

The sports beverages, as well, can be spotted as a typical staple for young athletes when it comes to rehydration. The Paediatric Society advises they’re not needed by most involved in sports and that the better, healthier – and far less expensive – alternative would be water, plain and simple. Combine that with an overall healthy diet and the body’s needs are met.

The exception would be the athlete performing vigorous activity for lengthy periods, particularly in hot, humid weather.

It’s good to have a body of health professionals issue such advice. But we have to realize they don’t do it lightly, or without long discussion and deliberation. They are, after all, making reference to the products of some of the world’s beverage manufacturing giants.

This information about these products has been publicized before, and perhaps some consumers were already on their guard. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics came out against kids and youth using energy drinks in 2011.

It’s been noted by many people, many times before: how much consumers and their choices are manipulated by clever marketing. They really need to be more cautious when new products come their way, or suddenly become all the rage.

Particularly anything they or their children plan to include as part of what they eat or drink, some in-depth research or questions asked of a family physician would be wise.

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