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Consumer Reports: Sugar substitutes in kid-friendly foods

Kids and sugar.JPG
Posted at 4:00 AM, Jan 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-20 08:48:06-05

TUCSON, Ariz. - Nutrition labels are now required to list not only how much sugar is in something, but also how much added sugar is in there too. Which, Consumer Reports says, could potentially create a new complication for parents.

“The concern is, to make that ‘added sugars number’ look more appealing to consumers, manufacturers might take out some of the regular sugar and add in non-nutritive sweeteners, like sucralose or aspartame," says Consumer Reports Nutritionist, Amy Keating.

It’s sort of a good news, bad news situation. Less sugar is better, especially for kids, who should have less than 25 grams a day. Eating too much added sugar early in life puts children at risk for things like obesity, high blood pressure and Type II diabetes. But it’s not so clear that simply consuming non-nutritive sweeteners instead is any healthier for kids.

“There’s a lot of research in terms of non-nutritive sweeteners and how they affect the body, from appetite to blood glucose control to weight loss," says Keating. But we just don’t know how these sweeteners will affect kids in the long term.”

The best advice is to follow Consumer Reports' lead and read labels, looking for both added sugars and non-nutritive sweeteners. Better yet, choose whole, unprocessed foods like fruits and vegetables. And skip sugary drinks, opting for water as much as possible.

One reason it has been so difficult to study the long term effects of non-nutritive sweeteners, is because manufacturers are not required to include the amount of non-nutritive sweeteners on nutrition labels.