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High Energy Or High Calorie?

My argument is with those who insist that their product is a high-energy food, ignoring the fact that their product is a high-calorie item.

The term “energy” has been on my mind a lot lately — mostly because of all the products on the market that claim to be “high in energy” or, “energy booster.”

“Energy” is often synonymous with “calories.” I say often because if a person is described as having lots of energy, that doesn’t mean the person has lots of calories. Usually, however, when the term is used in reference to a food, the terms are virtually interchangeable. Unfortunately, a lot of consumers don’t or can’t make the distinction.

A calorie (more accurately, the kilocalorie) is defined as the amount of energy (heat) required to raise the temperature of one litre of water from 15 to 16C. Newer terminology (that hasn’t yet caught on in Canada, but we see it on lots of labels) for energy uses the joule, a measure of force or capacity to do work, rather than of heat, as its basic unit.

My argument is with those who insist that their product is a high-energy food, ignoring the fact that their product is a high-calorie item. They suggest that by consuming their product, you will somehow have more energy.

This brings me to my complaint about so-called “energy” or “sports” drinks. Not only are these drinks no better for you than colas, in many cases they’re actually worse because of their impact on both tooth enamel and your hips!

First, the tooth enamel. Recent studies have shown that the enamel damage that comes about from drinking non-cola and sports drinks is from three to 11 times greater than from the same exposure to a cola drink. The energy drinks and lemonades are the worst offenders in terms of dental enamel. In one study, molars and premolars (no longer attached to the mouths of their owners) that were cavity free were bathed in a variety of beverages (including energy drinks, fitness waters and sports drinks) for a period of 14 days. This would be the equivalent

of 13 years of normal drink imbibing. Turns out that the lemonade, energy drinks and sports drinks were way ahead of fitness waters, iced tea and colas. The thinking is that while colas and their ilk contain one or more acids (usually phosphoric acid) that can wreak havoc on tooth enamel, the other offenders also contain additives and organic acids that exacerbate the erosion of tooth enamel. Behind their harmfulness is their ability to break down the calcium that’s so important to tooth enamel. Coupled with their

high acid content, is a high level of added sugar.

Now, of course, your hips may not care about the acid content, but they’ll for sure pay attention to all the added calories, because that’s where those extra calories, once they’ve been turned into fat, will want to hang out. If you’re really a sport, that is, into high-level activity, you can still find better ways of replacing all that energy you’ve expended in whatever activity you pursue. Other studies have shown that those wishing to replace the electrolytes they lost say, in running a marathon, can’t do better than chocolate milk. Not only does it have the major electrolytes boasted by the so-called sports drinks, it contains just enough sugar to replace missing glycogen — at half the price.

So, buy those drinks if you must, but for the sake of your teeth it would be wise to avoid sipping them, don’t take more than 30 minutes to get them down, rinse with water immediately after consumption, and wait at least two hours before drinking another one.

First and foremost, however, remember that energy is just another euphemism for calories.

Helen Bishop MacDonald is a consulting nutritionist in the agricultural industry

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