From Biosis 4, May 2005

Are Energy and Sports Drinks Putting Your Teeth at Risk?

Recently, energy and sports drinks have surged in popularity. Though much of this has to do with marketing, it helps that the beverages generally make good on their promises. Energy drinks such as Red Bull provide a real pick-me-up with their potent combinations of sugars, caffeine and supplements such as mood-lifting B vitamins. Sports drinks such as Gatorade do seem to rehydrate and quench thirst more quickly than water. Additionally, many consumers think of these drinks as good alternatives to soda pop. Though energy drinks may be sugary and highly caffeinated, a number of brands are made without high fructose corn syrup and the wealth of chemical additives common to soda. And in and of itself, the very name “sports drink” suggests something healthy.

But these beverages have a downside.

In a 2005 study published in General Dentistry, researchers at the University of Maryland Dental School found that teeth exposed to various energy and sports drinks experienced more enamel erosion than other beverages. These findings contradicted a similar 2003 study in Caries. Looking at the effects of sports drinks on dental enamel, researchers at the Ohio State University Children’s Hospital found no greater prevalence of erosion.

So who’s right?

Since each study used an entirely different methodology, it’s difficult to say. The Ohio study focused on the effects of actual use of the beverages, looking at the effects on teeth still in the mouth. The Maryland researchers submerged individual teeth in various drinks for two weeks. The drink manufacturers argue that since no one’s teeth are so chronically exposed to their beverages, the Maryland study is inaccurate. But by the same token, the Ohio study only examined the teeth for a limited period of time. It did not consider the effects of lifetime usage: an overall exposure that might well be the equivalent of fourteen days – if not longer.

So what to do? At this point, the best advice is the age-old advice: all things in moderation. If you choose to use these products, use them sparingly. Drink only the serving size recommended on the label or just enough to satisfy your thirst.

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