Do our kids need a “Spark”?

Performance-enhancing drinks for kids? One company is actively marketing a sports/nutrition drink to children as young as four years old.

Advocare, as noted in a profile in today’s N.Y. Times sports section, is actively promoting a product line called “KickStart SPARK” with lines like: “KickStart SPARK Smart Energy Drink provides focused and long-lasting energy that’s just right for children.” This so-called nutrition product contains huge amounts of caffeine per weight, along with numerous amino acids, carnitine and Co-Q10, none of which have been standardized for children. There are multiple medical concerns with these types of products (like Red Bull and RockStar “energy drinks”), which have long been targeting the teen and pre-teen markets. Interestingly, even Advocare warns on its “adult” version of “SPARK” (which is virtually the same drink, albeit more concentrated): “KEEP OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN.”

Equally concerning to me is the message we’re sending to our kids. Is it so crucial for children to “perform” (at the age of four?) that they must ingest highly sweetened, caffeinated supplemental beverages? As Dr. Andrew Shao, vice president for scientific and regulatory affairs at the Council for Responsible Nutrition, a Washington trade group for the supplements industry, said in a telephone interview with the Times: “Do we really need kids using performance-enhancing products? Kids should be kids.”

Pediatricians and parents must stop this nonsense, and get back to promoting good lifestyle habits: safe and good nutrition, reasonable exercise and plenty of sleep. That is the message our children need to hear. Their “spark” should not have to be poured into them but should be cultivated from within.

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