Would you let your 7-year-old drink diet soda?
How about your 2 year-old?
A disturbing new study finds that 27% of elementary-school kids and 20% of our preschoolers are consuming artificial sweeteners on a daily or near daily basis. This represents a 300% increase since 1999.
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With all the scary news about sugar these days, many parents may imagine that they’re doing their kids a favor by offering them sugar-free pudding or low-calorie fruit “juice.” And the fact that artificially sweetened foods are “sugar-free” might make them seem safe for every day consumption. I suspect they are anything but.
Fake Sugar May be Just as Harmful as Real Sugar
Eating artificially sweetened foods and beverages certainly doesn’t protect anyone against obesity. In fact, it seems to have the opposite effect. We also know that artificial sweeteners can disrupt the balance of beneficial bacteria in the intestines.
Now consider that a child’s diet during the first few years of life can profoundly impact the makeup of her microbiome, with consequences that may follow her into adulthood.
I don’t think we need to worry that much about the occasional treat. But let’s not teach our kids to expect sweet tasting foods and drinks at every meal and snack. Whether they are sweetened with sugar or artificial sweeteners, let’s save the sweet treats and drinks for special occasions.