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Do Artificial Sweeteners Hurt Kids?

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In the sixth installment of her "Dangerous or Safe?" series, pediatrician Dr. Cara Natterson sets the record straight on artificial sweeteners--once and for all.

artificial sweeteners

For most people, sugar is a treat, a pleasure, a temptation. Sugar gives us a burst of energy by providing a surge of glucose to rev our bodily engines. But we all know that sugar is unhealthy:

- It causes tooth decay
- Too much can cause stomach upset
- It is blamed (probably unrightfully so) for toddlers' uncontrollable behavior
- Like any other high-calorie food, when eaten in excess, it causes obesity

Ours is a culture of invention: if we want something we can't have, we find a way to have it. And so artificial sweeteners were invented. They replaced the calories of sugar without reducing the sweetness. We were supposed to be able to have our cake and eat it, too...literally.

- First came saccharin (Sweet 'N Low in the little pink packet)
- Next there was aspartame (Equal or Nutrasweet in the little blue packet)
- Most recently there is sucralose (Splenda in the little yellow packet)
- There are also "natural" alternatives like stevia

Artificial sweeteners have become a major component of processed foods over the past 20 years. Each sweetener has been studied thoroughly by the FDA and largely deemed safe. But rumors continuously swirl about possible associations with cancer.

- Are these sugar-alternatives really harmless?
- How about for our children, who will consume them over their entire lifetime?
- On the other hand, can they help in the battle against bulging waistlines?
- Do the benefits of replacing natural sugar with chemical alternatives outweigh the risks?

For Dr. Cara's bottom line, go to PAGE TWO.

Read more from Dr. Cara.

Dr. Cara Natterson, author of Your Toddler: Head To Toe, is a pediatrician and mother of 2. To buy a copy, click here. She is currently working on the forthcoming book entitled Dangerous or Safe?

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1 comments so far | Post a comment now
kerry October 19, 2009, 9:45 PM

What a fabulous article. I have been working hard to cut out sugar/processed foods in our family but it’s soooo hard to do!

Thanks for the wisdom and practical approach to this debate. I will share it on my site (with full credits of course!) soon. This is a topic I know my readers will love as I know they are also questioning the safety of sweetners.

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