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Wrong to tax sports drinks

Dr Colin Alert

Wrong to tax  sports drinks

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I QUESTION the introduction of a new tax on sports drinks, introduced during the Budget presentation last week.

Sports drinks have relatively low sugar content, compared to carbonated (non-diet) soft drinks (aka sweet drinks) (Please see table below).

Carbonated soft drinks, on average, have about twice as much sugar in a small cup (250 mls) than do sports drinks. Overconsumption of soft drinks is an unwelcome component in the overconsumption that predisposes us to obesity.

We even have local data – for example, the Adolescent Health and Fitness Study (AHFIT) (circa 1997), the Barbados arm of the Global School-based Health Survey 2011, showing high consumption of soft drinks in young Barbadians.

Sports drinks have water, a small quantity of electrolytes, flavouring and a small quantity of sugar. In the sports drink, the sugar is designed to top up the energy stores burnt during exercise lasting more than 20 to 30 minutes, allowing a prolongation of the exercise performance (“stamina”).

Athletes in training and in competition are encouraged to consume sports drinks to maintain hydration, and the “sugar” and electrolytes allow a more rapid absorption of the fluids, when compared to plain water.

If physical activity is considered a healthy trait, and sports drinks are designed to enhance performance in those who are physically active, it would be interesting to hear the explanation why the sports drinks have been lumped with the other soft drinks. Putting on a new tax here seems to be discouraging a healthy habit.

Dr Colin Alert