Close to half of adults and one quarter of kids in the US regularly consume artificial sweeteners

Low-calorie sweeteners (LCSs) are often used in place of added sugars such as sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup in food and beverage products. While these artificial sweeteners offer less calories, their effects on weight management and long-term health are still under investigation. A new study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reports that 41% of adults and 25% of children currently consume at least one LCS item on a regular basis. The researchers note that this represents a 200% increase for children and a 54% increase among adults compared to data reported in 1999-2000.

Are LCSs good for you? "Although LCSs were once believed to be physiologically inert, more recently their use has been suggested to influence metabolism," noted lead investigator Allison C. Sylvetsky, PhD, assistant professor of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health. "Some studies have suggested a beneficial effect on weight loss, while others indicate that obesity risk increases with LCS use. Little is known about the impact of long-term consumption, particularly in children. Despite the perceived benefits of replacing caloric sugars with LCSs for weight loss, evidence for the effectiveness of this strategy is lacking and some studies suggest a link between LCSs and obesity, diabetes, and other health issues."

Using data from the 2009-2012 National Health Examination Survey (NHANES), investigators analyzed reported LCS consumption for both children and adults. Data showed that women were more likely to consume products containing LCSs and that consumption increased with body weight in adults, with people with obesity being more likely to consume LCSs than normal weight individuals. Adults with diabetes were more likely to consume LCSs compared to those without diabetes. The data also showed a relationship between LCS intake and race and income. People of non-Hispanic white race/ethnicity had higher rates of LCS consumption, as did those in higher income brackets.

Researchers noted that while parents are generally opposed to feeding their kids food or drinks containing LCSs based on prior research, they may not realize that many of the foods children bring home surprisingly contain artificial sweeteners. In addition, LCSs are now being incorporated into foods not traditionally thought of as high in sugar like yogurt, milk substitutes, breads, cereals, condiments, and drinks.

"We have previously reported that most parents have negative attitudes toward LCS consumption by their children, yet often do not recognize the presence of LCSs in foods and beverages that they purchase for their families," explained Dr. Sylvetsky. "This study raised the possibility that parents may preferentially select products with nutrient content claims such as 'no sugar added' or 'light' in an effort to provide healthier options to their children, without realizing that these sugar-modified products often contain LCSs. The presence of LCSs in foods commonly consumed by children, such as canned fruit, ice cream, flavored oatmeal, and snack bars, combined with strong marketing and promotion of products deemed to be healthier alternatives, may be driving LCS food intake in children."

The study also found that most reported LCS consumption occurs at home (71% and 72% among adults and children, respectively) and with meals (64% of adults, 62% of children). While LCSs still represented a relatively low overall proportion of total food intake, 44% of adults and 20% of children reported consuming multiple daily servings of LCSs. For 17% of LCS-consuming adults, that number was more than three times per day.

"While the effects of early life exposure to LCSs on taste preferences, weight management, and chronic disease prevention have not been well-studied in humans, compelling findings in animal models highlight the need to examine their potential health effects in humans," concluded Dr. Sylvetsky. "Given that a significant proportion of children and adults in the US consume LCSs, these findings emphasize the need for prospective, long-term, well-controlled studies to determine the chronic health effects, especially in children."

Allison C. Sylvetsky, Yichen Jin, Elena J. Clark, Jean A. Welsh, Kristina I. Rother, Sameera A. Talegawkar.
Consumption of Low-Calorie Sweeteners among Children and Adults in the United States.
Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, January 2017, doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2016.11.004.

Most Popular Now

Boehringer Ingelheim builds Digital Lab "BI X…

With the founding of BI X as independent subsidiary Boehringer Ingelheim will focus on breakthrough innovative digital solutions in healthcare from idea to pilot. The sta...

Pfizer and Lilly receive FDA Fast Track designatio…

Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE) and Eli Lilly and Company (NYSE:LLY) today announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted Fast Track designation for tanezu...

Bacteria used as factories to produce cancer drugs

Researchers at the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Biosustainability in Denmark have developed a method of producing P450 enzymes - used by plants to defend against pr...

Novartis presents data demonstrating efficacy of A…

Novartis today announced that it will present 19 scientific abstracts at the 59th Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Headache Society (June 8-11, 2017, Boston, USA...

Bristol-Myers Squibb announces new collaboration t…

Bristol-Myers Squibb Company (NYSE:BMY) announced today it has entered into a clinical research collaboration with Novartis to investigate the safety, tolerability and ef...

Take a coffee or tea break to protect your liver

Chronic liver diseases rank as the 12th cause of death worldwide and many of these disorders are associated with unhealthy lifestyles. Conversely, a healthier lifestyle c...

Clinical trial shows experimental drug's ability t…

By adding an experimental drug to a standard chemotherapy regimen, a subset of patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer had a significantly longer period before the can...

Internet withdrawal increases heart rate and blood…

Scientists and clinicians from Swansea and Milan have found that some people who use the internet a lot experience significant physiological changes such as increased hea...

AstraZeneca enters agreement with Grünenthal to di…

AstraZeneca has entered an agreement with Grünenthal for the global rights to Zomig (zolmitriptan) outside Japan. Zomig is indicated for the acute treatment of migraines ...

Anyone can become more curious. Is that true?

Merck, a leading science and technology company, today announced the start of an experiment entitled "Anyone can become more curious". Driven by the company’s curiosity i...

Red onions pack a cancer-fighting punch, study rev…

The next time you walk down the produce aisle of your grocery store, you may want to reach for red onions if you are looking to fight off cancer. In the first study to ex...

Drug costs vary by more than 600% in study of 10 h…

In a study of 10 high-income countries with universal health care, costs for prescription drugs in 6 of the largest categories of primary care medicines varied by more th...

Pharmaceutical Companies

[ A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Z ]