American adults and children are now consuming more low-calorie sweeteners (LCS) and zero-calorie sweeteners (including diet products) than they were in the late ’90s to early 2000s. Data collected as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) show that 40% of adults and 25% of children are consuming these sweeteners once a day or more. These numbers represent a 200% increase in children in a 10-year period.
There is no consensus among experts as to whether LCS are beneficial in weight loss, with an analysis of the scientific literature yielding mixed results. More importantly, there is no sound evidence that they are safe for anyone, especially children, to consume. In public health, there is the idea of the precautionary principle, which states that a product, policy, or procedure must be proven safe before it hits the market. Though LCS are FDA–approved, they have remained the subject of controversy because of a lack of data supporting their safety. In fact, studies have shown how artificial sweeteners can interfere with the natural enzyme activity in the body, promoting rather than preventing weight loss. Further evidence suggests that any calories saved by drinking artificially sweetened drinks are usually made up for throughout the day during meals. With one in four consuming these sweeteners on a daily basis, it is time to study the long-term effects of LCS consumption and get the necessary answers.
Do you have questions about the safety of low-calorie sweeteners? Ask away in the comments below.