While many may think it must be a typo or at least an exaggeration, it's not: The use of low-calorie sweeteners (LCS) has skyrocketed by 200 percent in children living in the U.S. More than a few parents think it's a terrible idea for kids to be ingesting these artificial sweeteners, but 25 percent of U.S. kids do.
George Washington University's Milken Institute School of Public Health recently reported this staggering statistic from a national survey, revealing that while the consumption of artificially sweetened foods and beverages jumped by 54 percent among U.S. adults during the study period, there was an even greater jump among kids — a 200 percent increase.1
The low-calorie sweeteners they're referring to include aspartame, sucralose and saccharin, among others, and the study took place between 1999 and 2012. Twenty-one percent of children and 41 percent of adults already reported they used these substances regularly.
Allison Sylvetsky, Ph.D., an assistant professor of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences at Milken Institute School of Public Health in Washington D.C., had this to say:
"Just 8.7 percent of kids reported consuming low-calorie sweeteners in 1999 and 13 years later that number had risen to 25.1 percent. Kids aren't alone in this trend. More adults also are taking in low-calorie sweeteners in diet soft drinks and in a variety of foods and snack items.
The findings are important, especially for children, because some studies suggest a link between low-calorie sweeteners and obesity, diabetes and other health issues."2
The National Health and Nutrition Evaluation Survey
According to Science Daily, this was the first study to take a look at LCS in foods, beverages and the substances in the little green, pink, yellow and blue packets you find at most lunch counters. It included the latest data for people in the U.S.
Researchers conducted the National Health and Nutrition Evaluation Survey (NHANES) with around 17,000 men, women and children from 2009 to 2012, comparing it to data collected from 1999 to 2008.
The study involved two interviews during which the participants relayed what they'd had to eat and drink over the previous 24 hours. At the conclusion of the study, several interesting findings were revealed:
• Of those reporting use of LCS more than once a day, 44 percent were adults and 20 percent were children
• Seventeen percent of adults reported having a food or beverage sweetened with LCS at least three times a day
• As LCS use increased, body mass index (BMI) increased with it
• Nineteen percent of obese adults used LCS three times a day or more, compared to 13 percent of normal weight adults
• Around 70 percent of the LCS consumption took place at home, and children as young as 2 years old were also eating and drinking these products
What's Wrong With Artificial Sweeteners Like Aspartame?
It's entirely possible that aspartame, sucralose, saccharin and several other pseudo sweeteners such as acesulfame-potassium, advantame and neotame, when first developed, were meant as a good (and certainly profitable) thing — to reduce excessive sugar intake.
The trouble is, while the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) placed the "Safe For Human Consumption" stamp on these substances to replace sugar, the "cure" was even more toxic than the disease. Dr. Richard Hodin, a surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital, said:
"Sugar substitutes like aspartame are designed to promote weight loss and decrease the incidence of metabolic syndrome, but a number of clinical and epidemiologic studies have suggested that these products don't work very well and may actually make things worse."3
But one of the biggest problems with the rampant use of artificial sweeteners is that there's no scientific data to back up claims of their safety. Science Daily says "there is still no scientific consensus on the health impacts connected to low-calorie sweeteners." A PLOS Medicine study also found:
"The absence of consistent evidence to support the role of ASBs [artificially sweetened beverages] in preventing weight gain and the lack of studies on other long-term effects on health strengthen the position that ASBs should not be promoted as part of a healthy diet."4