Soda diet. Low-sugar ketchup. Light yogurt.
What do all these foods have in common? They are all common items on grocery shelves, and they may all contain some sort of artificial sweetener.
These are substances that give foods and drinks a sweet taste with minimal calories and not sugar. In one recent study, one in four children reported eating or drinking something containing a man-made sweetener on a particular day.
While some people think that swapping sugar with artificial sweeteners is simple thanks to reducing their children’s consumption of sugar, there are still many questions. Are artificial sweeteners safe for teenagers to consume? Do they really help lose weight? Unfortunately, the answers are not entirely clear.
Viscous situation with sugar
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, 17% of calories in children’s meals come from sugar – and half of them come from drinks that contain added sugar. (For reference, the Nutritional Guidelines for 2015-2020 recommend to Americans that 10% of their daily calories are not available to anyone with added sugar.)
“Excessive consumption of sugar, especially from sugar-sweetened beverages, contributes to childhood obesity,” says pediatrician Hanna Freeman, MS, RD, CSP, LD. She says that sugar is quickly digested inside the body, which can cause blood glucose spikes to rapidly make the child feel hungry after eating – or make him crave more sugar.
For a child who needs between 1,300 to 1500 calories a day, only 12 ounces. A can of soda alone can push them to exceed the recommended sugar limit by 10%.
“I have found that many children who are obese may drain a cup into 3-4 sugar-sweetened drinks a day, far exceeding the daily allowance for added sugar,” Freeman adds.
Freeman explains that sugar also lacks nutrition in fiber, vitamins, or minerals. So if children consume a large percentage of calories from sugar, they will likely lose other foods that provide the essential nutrients needed for growth and development.
Shovel for sweeteners
Since artificial sweeteners contain minimal calories and do not contain sugar, they do not cause that significant increase in blood glucose, and few people assume they are healthier than sugar.
Some of the most important ones to get to know are:
Saccharin (Sweet’N Low®).
Potassium Acesulfame, or Ace-K (Sweet One®).
Monk Fruit Extract.
But whether artificially sweetened foods and drinks are healthier options than sugary foods and drinks is not entirely clear. When it comes to weight, Freeman notes that some studies have shown an association between artificial sweeteners and short-term weight loss or weight stability, but studies of their long-term effects are not available.
There is still plenty of tons to know in other ways that artificial sweeteners may affect people’s health. Some studies have shown that some studies may alter the composition of important bacteria in the intestine. Early animal studies have also linked some sweeteners with an increased risk of cancer, but more recent studies have not found this association.
The FDA has determined acceptable daily levels of sweeteners, which is that the amount believed to be safe for consumption supports a person’s weight. But since manufacturers are not required to disclose exactly what percentage of sweetener they put into products, it is difficult for people to understand what percentage their children consume.
Freeman provides these general guidelines: “A child with obesity who drinks many sugar-sweetened drinks a day can enjoy replacing these drinks with sugar-free alternatives to reduce sugar and eating calories. But I generally recommend not one or two 8 ounces cups of drinks contain substances Daily non-nutritious sweetener. “
Strategies for less sugar
It is important to remember that “sugar-free” is not an equivalent. The simplest option in general is to support children for long-term success by helping them establish healthy eating habits that focus on whole foods and minimal added sugar.
“There is strong evidence that eating less added sugars is associated with a lower risk of developing disorder in adults, moderate evidence of a lower risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes and fewer types of cancer in adults,” Freeman says.