Young People Who Drink Artificially Sweetened Sodas and Other Beverages Still Take in Excess Calories, Study Finds

By Perry, Susan | MinnPost.com, May 2, 2019 | Go to article overview

Young People Who Drink Artificially Sweetened Sodas and Other Beverages Still Take in Excess Calories, Study Finds


Perry, Susan, MinnPost.com


Children and adolescents who drink low- or no-calorie beverages (ones sweetened with sugar substitutes) take in considerably more calories — about 200 more per day — than young people who consume mostly water, according to a study published Thursday in the journal Pediatric Obesity.

“These results challenge the utility of diet or low-calorie sweetened beverages when it comes to cutting calories and weight management,” said Allison Sylvetsky, the study’s lead author and an assistant professor of exercise and nutrition science at George Washington University, in a released statement. “Our findings suggest that water should be recommended as the best choice for kids and teens.”

As background information in the study points out, the use of low-calorie sweeteners in the diets of children and teens has risen by at least 200 percent over the past two decades. Today, 25 percent of young people consume some type of artificially sweetened food product on a given day, including 19 percent who consume an artificially sweetened beverage — a figure that’s up from 6 percent in 2000.

Yet, researchers still don’t know how artificial sweeteners affect the total amount of calories consumed by people, including children — or whether they actually help with weight management.

Meanwhile, an increasing proportion of America’s young people are topping the scales at an unhealthy weight. Today, more than a third of American children and teens, aged 2 to 19, are either overweight or obese, according to data from the federally funded National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).

How the study was done

For their study, Sylvetsky and her co-authors analyzed NHANES dietary data collected from 7,026 children and teens between 2011 and 2016. (Parents or guardians filled out the survey for the younger children.) The survey asks participants to provide details of what they ate and drank during a 24-hour period.

The beverages listed by the survey’s participants, which included sodas, fruits drinks, sports drinks, teas, dairy drinks and alternative dairy drinks, were divided into three groups: artificially sweetened (low-calorie) beverages, sugary beverages and water.

The young people who drank more than 4 ounces of artificially sweetened beverages, but less than 4 ounces of sugary beverages on the day of the survey were categorized as consumers of low-calorie beverages. Those who drank more than 4 ounces of sugary beverages, but less than 4 ounces of artificially sweetened beverages were categorized as consumers of sugary beverages. And those who drank less than 4 ounces of both artificially and sugar sweetened beverages were categorized as consumers of water.

Four ounces was chosen as the cut-off because it represents half of a typical 8-ounce serving of a beverage. …

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