Does Your Child Drink Sugar-Free Beverages? Here’s Something You Should Know
As a parent, it’s your responsibility to watch over your child’s food choices. One of the most popular health trends today is preventing children from consuming large amounts of fructose, especially high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), as it leads to various health problems like obesity and diabetes. For this reason, many parents have now switched to “healthier” sugar-free alternatives, in the hopes of reducing their children’s fructose consumption and improving their well-being.
But are sugar-free drinks loaded with artificial sweeteners really the ideal solution? Keep reading and find out.
More Children Are Now Drinking Sugar-Free Alternatives
According to a report in published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the number of children in the United States who drink sugar-free beverages has doubled in just the past 10 years. This was based on data from a federal health survey. Researchers said that in 1998, only six percent of U.S. children consumed sugar-free beverages. By 2008, the number increased to 12.5 percent. (source)
The same goes for adults. During a survey conducted in 2007 to 2008, 25 percent of Americans admitted to drinking at least one “diet” drink in the past day. In 1999 to 2000, though, only 19 percent have confirmed this.
Dr. Miriam B. Vos, senior researcher from Emory University, Atlanta, said that this diet drink trend is not at all surprising in adults. But the increase in the number of children who are soda drinkers was quite unexpected.
She also admits that even though she agrees with wanting children to ingest less fructose, she is still wary of the fact that there are no human studies that have looked at artificial sweeteners’ long-term effects in developing children.
Animal Studies Reveal the Effects of Consuming Artificial Sweeteners
Dr. Vos notes that animal studies have raised potential health concerns with regard to using artificial sweeteners. One study notes that animals that are given artificial sweeteners have increased their weight, meaning these chemical substances may have affected their metabolism. Dr. Vos says that she is not sure whether the same effects will be seen in children.
Some of the most popular artificial sweeteners used today include saccharin, aspartame, and sucralose. The so-called natural sweetener agave syrup, which is touted “healthy,” is also used in some products, although some natural health experts question its safety.
Can Diet Drinks Benefit People Who Want to Lose Weight?
The rate of obesity in the U.S. has greatly increased in the last 20 years. Due to the increasing size of their waistline, Americans have sought the help of food and beverage manufacturers, and turn to “diet” versions of foods and drinks that can be readily bought at supermarkets and groceries.
However, Dr. Vos comments that no one can clarify whether these food products can really help. In large population studies, it was found that diet-beverage drinkers showed no improvement with their weight management goals. In fact, they even tend to weigh more than individuals who drink water.
Dr. Vos says that this may be uncertain, though. It may be that those who opt for diet drinks are already overweight and are just trying to lose more pounds.
Be Vigilant When Giving Your Children Sugar-Free Drinks
Sugar-free diet drinks may seem like the ideal solution to improving kids’ health. However, more long-term studies should be done to confirm whether these products really have significant effects on children’s overall health.
Pure, clear water that’s free of harmful chemicals like fluoride is still the best beverage for children. Drinking raw milk from pasture-fed cows is also a good idea, as it contains a good amount of nutrients.
If your child really craves sweet drinks, settle for safe and natural options like the herb stevia and raw honey. Use minimal amounts of these sweeteners, though.
Andrea Peterson is a blogger and doting mom to three kids. She writes various topics about children’s health, and believes that fructose and artificial sweeteners from soda and other processed drinks are among the major reasons why many children suffer from illnesses today.