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Gatorade challenges choc milk health claims

By staff reporter , 28-Feb-2006

Gatorade has challenged a recent advertising campaign that claims that chocolate milk helps athletes to work out longer than conventional sports drinks.

The campaign, launched last week, the Milk Processors Education Program (MilkPEP), was based on findings from a study conducted at Indiana University.

But Gatorade believes that the program is strongly misleadingly in stating that "athletes who drank chocolate milk after an intense bout of exercise were able to workout longer and with more power during a second workout compared to athletes who drank commercial sports beverages."

The sports drinks firm says that this misleading statement has inevitably led to numerous media reports that chocolate milk performed better in this study than sports drinks.

"This was not the finding of the study," says Gatorade in a statement.

The program claims that the study found that Gatorade - referred to in the study as 'fluid replacement drink'- which has less than one-third the calories of chocolate milk performed equally as well as chocolate milk and that both chocolate milk and Gatorade performed significantly better than a 'carbohydrate replacement drink'- in the study, this referred to a commercially available protein-containing high-carbohydrate recovery drink.

It is not surprising that Gatorade, which dominates the US sports drinks sector, should be so protective of its product. North America remains by far the biggest market for sports drinks, accounted for 49 per cent of total consumption in 2005 and looks set to hold on to its global market lead to 2010.

Gatorade went on to claim that some quotes taken from the study, which was published in this month's International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, were taken out of context.

While the author of the study was quoted in the release as saying that "chocolate milk contains an optimal carbohydrate to protein ratio, which is critical for helping refuel tired muscles after strenuous exercise," Gatorade says it is important to note that this is commentary, and not a conclusion of the actual published study.

"Rather [it] was separate but related commentary by the researcher," said the company.

"This study in fact showed no impact of protein since the protein-containing carbohydrate-replacement drink which contained reportedly identical levels of carbohydrate and protein to chocolate milk showed no performance benefit, while Gatorade performed comparable to the chocolate milk and significantly better than the protein-containing carbohydrate replacement drink."

Mintel reports that the US sports drink market produced $2.9 billion (€2,400 million) in sales in 2004. Sales are predicted to grow to $3.1 billion (€ 2600 million) by 2009.