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Half-baked science and hype pushing sports drinks.

THOSE sports drinks aren't great after all. An investigation by a British medical journal has revealed that some of the claims made by leading sports drink brands are baseless, with meagre research, and are mere marketing hype.

The multimillion dollar industry has used unethical marketing tricks to promote questionable health benefits of sports drinks, the investigative report published on Thursday said.

It has revealed a nexus between healthcare professionals, researchers and manufacturers of sports drinks.

Sports drink makers have developed their own " science of hydration" to boost sales.

They are also collaborating with some of the world's most influential sports bodies to persuade ordinary people.

These companies have appointed key opinion leaders to influence doctor's prescriptions and they work with gyms and instructors too. Endorsements by elite athletes and claims of hydration benefits have also meant that sports drinks have been able to shrug off any unhealthy associations.

An Oxford University team tested the evidence behind 431 performance- enhancing claims in adverts for 104 different sports products, including drinks, protein shakes and trainers. The results were worrying as the report found that there was a complete absence of high- quality evidence.

The misleading messages filter down to everyday health advice by company- sponsored scientists who advise sports bodies, the investigation found.

While sports drinks may be helpful for athletes, the drinks companies rarely study ordinary gym- goers, Professor Tim Noakes said. Studies show they are made up of artificial sweeteners and loaded with sodium to give a person a sense of thirst making them drink more than they would usually do.

Their huge popularity among children is also raising concerns of increasing incidence of obesity and dental erosion. These companies are marketing their product among schoolkids too.

GlaxoSmithKline runs a school science programme, aimed at 11- 14 year olds, looking at things like the advantages of sports drinks over water, as part of its involvement in the Olympic anti- doping operations.

In India, too, health concerns over energy drinks have forced the Food Safety and Standards Authority to come up with new regulations. It has decided to strip the drinks of " energy" tag over the high caffeine content.

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Publication:Mail Today (New Delhi, India)
Date:Jul 20, 2012
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