There’s a debate raging over whether sports drinks and “energy” drinks like Gatorade, Powerade, and VitaminWater should be sold in school vending machines and snack bars.
It should come as no surprise that the companies that manufacture these sweetened drinks are lobbying to keep them in schools. With sodas being phased out of schools by 2009, they are counting on these sports drinks to keep the money flowing in.
The trade group representing Coca-Cola, Pepsi and other bottlers, whose annual sales of sports drinks reached $7.5 billion last year, counters that sports drinks and sweetened waters are lower in calories, “appropriate” for high school students and “essential” to young athletes.
Gatorade contains high fructose corn syrup (it’s called glucose-fructose syrup on the label). Since when is high fructose corn syrup “essential” to young athletes? Before Gatorade was invented in the 1960s were athletes unable to perform? The idea that sports drinks are necessary for performance is nothing but marketing hype.
Beverage companies have spent millions making sure that sports drinks are associated with health and athletics. … Pepsi spent $81 million promoting Gatorade for a three-month period that ended in May. Ending up on a list of school junk foods could undermine that healthful, sporty image.
“For years we’ve been programmed to believe that sports drinks are healthy and you need to replenish those electrolytes after you go out and walk the dog,” said Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
It really does all come down to programming. Many people have been manipulated into believing the nonsense that we need sports drinks, that they’ll improve our performance, and make us all-around better athletes.
These products shouldn’t be readily available in schools because young kids and teens are particularly vulnerable to emotion-based marketing manipulation. If parents decide to allow their kids to consume sports drinks at home that’s one thing, but serving up colored sugar water to kids in public schools is irresponsible at best.
Public schools should provide a healthy environment in which kids can thrive and learn. Keeping junk food out of the vending machines and cafeterias is the least we can do for them, especially when so many kids are fed nothing but junk at home.