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Good Sam Dietitian Urges Caution with Low-Calorie Sweeteners

January 17th, 2017

Consumption of foods and beverages containing low-calorie sweeteners (LCS) is up by 200 percent for children and 54 percent for adults according to a new study from George Washington University.

“I’m not surprised by the results, but they are definitely concerning,” said Lauren Hughes, MS, RD, CDN, Clinical Nutrition Manager at Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center.

The study measured consumption of foods and beverages containing LCS such as aspartame, sucralose, and saccharin in children and adults from 1999 to 2012. 

Hughes believes the increase in LCS consumption is related to the increase of products being processed with artificial sweeteners. These products are appealing to consumers because they usually contain little or no calories. Despite the low calories in these products, Hughes says there’s just not enough definitive research available to know what the long term effects might be from consuming these chemicals.

“These sweeteners tend to be double or triple the sweetness of regular sugar, so if you’re used to eating these products with that amount of sweetness and then go to eat something like a piece of fresh fruit (which has a natural sugar source), you may not get that same satisfaction because you’re expecting to taste something sweeter. Consumption of artificial sweetener at high levels may affect your taste buds.”

Especially troubling is the rise in LCS consumption among children. According to the study, children as young as two are eating or drinking LCS-sweetened foods and beverages and about 70 percent of LCS consumption occurred at home.

Hughes admits it can be tough, especially with young children who are picky eaters, but introducing LCS containing foods and beverages is not the best solution.  She offers suggestions like mixing juice with water so it’s not as sweet, flavoring drinks with fresh fruit, and trying to introduce new fruits and vegetables every day either in the whole form or by mixing them into a favorite recipe.

“As parents, I think we need to set the example and send the right message to our children, not that they can’t have any sweets or sugary drinks, but there should be a limit to it. If they are consuming high volumes of these products, we need to try to wean them off of them and introduce more of the wholesome and natural foods they should be having.”

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