This boom in marathon participation and recreational running occurred throughout America and Europe, providing huge opportunities for products targeted at these athletes. One such product, was developed in the late 1960’s by Dr. Robert Cade, working at the University of Florida.
Dr. Cade’s product, Gatorade, was already gaining traction with football teams across the country. However, the company needed a way to expand into the general market. As Noakes explains, “[T]he challenge faced from the outset by those manufacturing Dr Cade’s product was to sell a drink consisting of common kitchen chemicals on the basis of scientific evidence that did not exist in the 1960s and that some would argue still does not exist even today.”
The solution? A widespread marketing campaign touting the medical benefits of their product: curing dehydration and preventing muscle cramps and heatstroke. Thus began the hugely successful marketing campaign to hydrate the world.
However, was their any merit to the campaign, or was it simply a clever marketing ploy? In 2012, the British Medical Journal published an investigative piece entitled The Truth About Sports Drinks, in which they evaluated 431 performance-enhancing claims made by 104 products. We will look at their results in the next blog, but they also that this to say about the evolution of such claims:
“So how did the importance of hydration gain traction? An investigation by the BMJ has found that companies have sponsored scientists, who have gone on to develop a whole area of science dedicated to hydration. These same scientists advise influential sports medicine organisations (sic), which have developed guidelines that have filtered down to everyday health advice. These guidelines have influenced the European Food Safety Authority, the EU agency that provides independent advice on the evidence underpinning health claims relating to food and drink. And they have spread fear about the dangers of dehydration.”
In the next post we will look at the real science behind hydration and the potential dangers of overhydration, including muscle cramps!