As a mother I have often wondered about the effects of sugar on my son. Now that he has grown and makes food choices for himself, I wonder what the effect of artificial sweeteners has on children? I decided to do some due diligence on the subject and reviewed two studies. The first Artificial Sweeteners: A systematic review of metabolic effects in youth (Rebecca j. Brown, et, al. 2010) and the second, The Use of Nonnutritive Sweeteners in Children. (Carissa M. Baker-Smith, et, al. 2019) Both studies show that more through research needs to be done to access the dangers of artificial sweeteners for children. Below I share some of the most interesting information from the studies. I hope this information helps you to make a more informed decision about the number of artificial sweeteners that you want your children to consume.
The following information was taken from some of the most current research pertaining to artificial sweetener consumption and children. The current FDA-approved Nonnutritive Sweeteners include saccharin, aspartame, acesulfame potassium, sucralose, neotame, stevia, and advantame. These NNS's are 180 to 20,000 times sweeter than sugar, this potentially affects our preferences for sweet taste. The long-term safety of NNSs in childhood has not been assessed in humans, younger than 2 years old. No advice can be provided on the use of NNS in children because there is a lack of data on this age group. The number of consumer products containing NNSs has quadrupled over the last few years. Manufacturers must list NNSs in the ingredient list but are not required to indicate the amount per serving. "Observational studies show that NNS intake is associated with higher rates of metabolic syndrome and diabetes, and that a better understanding is needed about whether NNS use has a causal and harmful effect on metabolism and the risk of diabetes mediated through the gut microbiome or other as-yet-unidentified pathways." (Carissa M. Baker-Smith, et, al. 2019) To better inform the public about consumption of NNSs, the FDA should require products marketed in the United States to include labels that list the type and quantity of any NNS contained per serving of a product. "Funding should be allocated to encourage researchers to conduct high-quality research on the use of NNSs in childhood, focusing on age of exposure and taste preferences, neurodevelopment, and effect on the microbiome and its relevance to obesity, metabolic syndrome, and diabetes." (Carissa M. Baker-Smith, et, al. 2019)
In closing the safety of artificial sweetener consumption by children is a controversial subject. There have even been studies linking NNS's to the early onset of metabolic disease. Considering the information shared in these articles, artificial sweeteners should be treated with the same amount of caution a regular sugar. The spikes in blood glucose levels could lead to later onset of metabolic disease in children. It is better to feed our children a more whole food diet and limit their exposure to sweeteners and sugar additives in food. The more natural and less refined the foods that we feed our children the more prepared their tiny bodies are to deal with the processing of this whole food rather than food additives. Until the research shows that these products are safe for my son, I will continue to provide him with the most nourishing whole food snacks I have at my disposal. I wish you well in your journey with food and nourishing your families!
(Rebecca j. Brown, et, al. 2010) https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.3109/17477160903497027
(Carissa M. Baker-Smith, et, al. 2019) https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/144/5/e20192765?utm_source=highwire&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Pediatrics_etoc