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The Sports-Drink Wars

Rating

3 Star

The Sports-Drink Wars

Our Review Summary

Sports drinks are a rapidly expanding business. This story reports on one person’s experience with a new kind of sports drink (that includes protein in addition to the usual electrolytes) and the evidence to support its use in elite athletes. However, this story is flawed in several ways.

The story does a decent job of describing the strength of the available evidence. The story reports on two recent studies and appropriately points out that the studies were funded by the drink manufacturers, had small numbers of subjects, had different outcomes, and contradicted each other.

The story does mention the alternatives: the various sports drinks for athletes and water for the rest of us. However, the story does not adequately quantify the benefits of the sports drink. The story does say that the protein-containing drink provides 15% more hydration than the conventional sports drink and provides the caveat that this is not a crucial difference for most people, but this is not enough information on the benefits. How big were the benefits found in the studies? Although the story states that the protein-containing drink is more expensive than the conventional drink, this is insufficient information on costs. What is the actual cost to consumers?

The story does not mention harms. For example, the story does not mention how many calories are in the drinks and that overconsumption by non-elite athletes could contribute to weight gain. Furthermore, by focusing on the studies in which the subjects are elite atlhetes, the story crosses the line into disease mongering. In the setting of an obesity epidemic, there may be more harm than benefit in the widespread consumption of calorie-rich beverages when, in most situations, water would suffice. The truth is that except at the extremes, our kidneys do a miraculous job of keeping our electrolytes in precise and normal concentrations without a need for commercial concoctions.

Finally, the story does not quote any sources. The story should have provided some perspective from experts who have no stake in the claims being made.

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

Although the story states that the protein-containing drink is more expensive than the traditional sports drink, this is insufficient information on costs. How much more expensive? What is the actual price?

Does the story adequately quantify the benefits of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Not Satisfactory

The story does not adequately quantify the benefits of the sports drink. The story does say that the protein-containing drink provides 15% more hydration than the conventional sports drink and provides the caveat that this is not a crucial difference for most people, but this is not enough information on the benefits. The story fails to explain the magnitude of the effects observed in the source studies.

Does the story adequately explain/quantify the harms of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

The story does not mention harms. For example, the story does not mention how many calories are in the drinks and that overconsumption by non-elite athletes could contribute to weight gain.

Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?

Satisfactory

The story adequately describe two recent studies. The story points out that the studies were funded by the drink manufacturers, had small numbers of subjects and were double-blinded.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Not Satisfactory

There is only a benefit to special rehydration in sustained vigorous exercise, not the usual 15 minutes on the treadmill. The author recommends rehydration with a commercial sports drink for “elite athletes” without defining the term. Most physical exercise does not require special, commercially-marketed products. By focusing on the studies in which the subjects are competitive cyclists perfoming 80 kilometer time-trials, or on subjects losing 2.5% of their weight (equivalent to a 160 pound person losing 4 pounds), the story crosses the line into disease mongering. In the setting of an obesity epidemic, there may be more harm than benefit in the widespread consumption of calorie-rich beverages when, in most situations, water would suffice. The truth is that except at the extremes, our kidneys do a miraculous job of keeping our electrolytes in precise and normal concentrations without a need for commercial concoctions.

Does the story use independent sources and identify conflicts of interest?

Not Satisfactory

The story does not quote any sources. The story should have provided some perspective from experts who have no stake in the claims being made.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Satisfactory

The story does mention the different sports drinks for athletes and water for the rest of us.

Does the story establish the availability of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Satisfactory

It’s clear that these drinks are widely available.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Satisfactory

The story states that sports drinks are not new.

Does the story appear to rely solely or largely on a news release?

Not Applicable

There is no way to know if the story relied on a press release as the sole source of information.

Total Score: 4 of 9 Satisfactory

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