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Is artificial sweetener safe for kids?

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Posted at 8:00 AM, Jan 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-16 12:37:22-05

NORFOLK, Va. - Too much sugar is bad for children's health, but is artificial sweetener a safe alternative?

"They're still growing, so we really don't know how [artificial sweeteners] are going to affect them," explained CHKD registered dietitian Lynn Kistler.

According to research highlighted in a CHKD article on artificial sweeteners, one in four children consume artificial sweeteners as part of their diet.  However, CHKD experts caution parents to only use artificial sweeteners one to two times a week.

"We always use it cautiously," said Kistler. "We don't say you have free rein to have as many zero-calorie drinks as you want. We do try to limit them."

Kistler said artificial sweeteners can alter taste buds.

"Some of the products are so sweet it can actually change their taste," she explained. "So they end up craving sweeter foods."

While Kistler said there's no evidence confirming artificial sweeteners cause cancer, the research is mixed about how it impacts weight loss.

"There's no clear-cut evidence that they actually do help with weight management, " she said.

Kistler urged parents to cut down on the amount of juice and sugary drinks given to children.

"Kids should enjoy fruit and that should be their form of sweetness," said Kistler. "If you're always bringing in sweet treats, sweetened beverages, they're never going to get to the point where they love to have fruit."