There’s nothing sweet about the results of a new study on the consumption of artificial sweeteners in children. Research published in Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that the number of children who eat or drink artificial sweeteners (aspartame, sucralose, saccharin, etc.) has skyrocketed, with a nearly 200% increase from 1999 to 2012.
According to the data, less than 9% of kids consumed low-calorie sweeteners in 1999. But by 2012 that number rose to about 25%, with children as young as two consuming them.
And it’s not just a problem for kids. Forty-four percent of adults and 20% of children in the survey reported consuming low-calorie sweeteners more than once a day, while a whopping 17% of adults said they consume artificially sweetened foods or beverages three or more times a day.
Although scientists are unsure exactly how artificial sweeteners affect the body, experts generally agree that they’re not healthy. Sugar substitutes have recently been linked to obesity and diabetes, while a 2016 study found that pregnant women who consumed more artificial sweeteners in beverages were twice as likely to have children that were overweight or obese at one year.
Study author Allison Sylvetsky, assistant professor of exercise and nutrition sciences at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health, offered a few suggestions for limiting your intake of artificial sugar. “Drink water instead of soda. Sweeten a serving of plain yogurt with a little fruit, and don't forget an apple or another piece of fresh fruit is a great snack for both kids and adults."