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Drink sports drinks: Is that really what Richie does?

Sports and energy drinks. If you’re a reader of this blog, you’ll know I hold serious reservations about them — they’re bad for your teeth, and unless you’re an elite athlete, do little to enhance sporting prowess.

A few months ago, I published this post about the dangers of sports drinks. Soon after, I saw this disturbing story in the media:

In Nelson, a five-year-old boy needed to have multiple rotting teeth removed. He arrived at the clinic holding a large bottle of Powerade. When the dentist asked him why he was drinking Powerade, he said, “because Richie does.”

Of course, the little boy was referring to ex-All Blacks captain Richie McCaw.

As an orthodontist, I find this shocking. There is no way a five-year-old child should be drinking Powerade.

Funnily enough, a smart little boy at my clinic who had heard the story said to me, “I don’t think Richie does drink it.”

It’s sad because I suspect he’s right — Richie McCaw probably doesn’t drink Powerade. Yet, he’s sponsored by them, and young people who put him on a pedestal think they need it to be like him.

The dentist who treated the boy, Dr. Rob Beaglehole, rightly pointed out to Stuff that sugary drinks contribute to many health issues in New Zealand, which include tooth decay, obesity and type-2 diabetes.

What are sports drinks?

Sports drinks are designed to replenish your body with carbohydrates and electrolytes faster than water can. You need this kind of replenishment if you lose more than a litre of body fluid an hour. The thing is, though everyday sportspeople (especially children) will never lose that much fluid during exercise. And, in fact, many of those who favour these drinks don’t even play sport — they just like the taste!

Terrible for children

More health professionals are beginning to recognise the dangers of too much sugar. Sports and energy drinks actually contain more sugar than Coca Cola. So, if you give your child a sports drink, you are effectively bathing their teeth in a tooth-decaying, sugary solution between meals. For children, and adults for that matter, water is a far better option.

Time for a change

As more cases like the Nelson boy emerge, I wonder whether top sports people will begin to distance themselves from sports drinks. I hope so.

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