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Are Artificial Sweeteners Safe for Kids?, Powered by Nemours Children's Health System

Are Artificial Sweeteners Safe for Kids?

Most Americans consume some form of an artificial sweeter daily. This type of sugar substitute can used in a variety of packaged products from low-calorie flavored drinks to light flavored yogurts. The benefit of using artificial sweeteners is to help reduce the amount of added sugar in a product, which will also lower the total calories. A concern for parents and caregivers tends to be:  are they safe for children?

Let’s breakdown some facts.

What are artificial sweeteners and how are they regulated?

Artificial sweeteners are known to give a more concentrated sweet taste to food and beverages. If using sugar substitutes at home it’s best to use less than you would of regular sugar. 

  • Artificial Sweeteners are made by some means of chemical processing.
  • They are high intensity sweeteners and tend to be hundreds of times sweeter than regular table sugar.
  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) establishes an acceptable daily intake which is an amount that is deemed safe based on body weight.

Which artificial sweeteners are approved by the FDA?

*Both Stevia and the Luo Han Guo is deemed a natural sweetener since extracts are used of from a plant.
** The FDA has not established an acceptable daily intake for Luo Han Guo fruit extracts primarily related to evidence of the ingredient’s safety at levels well above the amounts needed to achieve the desired effect (e.g., as a sweetener) in food.

Is there any harm to using artificial sweeteners with kids?

  • Multiple studies have shown these sweeteners do not cause risk of birth defects or cancer.
  • One group at risk should avoid the artificial sweetener Aspartame. Anyone with phenylketonuria (PKU) cannot breakdown this sweetener.

As a parent, it’s likely best to look at the big picture of what your child is eating and drinking throughout the day. Moderation is key. So offering a balanced diet that includes a variety of foods from each food group with minimal added sugar use is ideal for your child’s growth.

Marlene Rafferty, RD, LDN

About Marlene Rafferty, RD, LDN

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Marlene Rafferty, RD, LDN, is a registered dietitian at Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Del.