In the past ten years, the amount of children consuming beverages with sugar substitutes has been growing steadily although studies have not yet been able to show if the diet-drink consumption has been linked to negative health effects.
Roughly 12.5 % of youngsters in the country consume drinks that contain artificial sweeteners, and it seems that children are following the diet-drink behaviour of adults as older people are also increasing consumption.
Senior researcher Dr. Miriam B. Vos of Emory University in Atlanta claims that the 6% increase among children was unexpected, and it is unclear if the trend is a positive or negative one as society on the whole wants to see children consuming less sugar.
“We do want children to drink less sugar, but the challenge is that there are no studies that have looked at the long-term health effects of artificial sweeteners in growing children,” said Vos in an interview.
Some studies conducted with animals have shown that diet drinks may affect metabolism, but studies have not been carried out on children. However, studies on large populations of adults have shown that diet-drink consumers on average weigh more than their water-drinking counterparts. The reasons for the higher weights among artificially-sweetened beverage consumers are not known, as pre-existing conditions were not taken into account.
Vos claims that long term studies on children are needed before deciding if diet drinks are bad for young people, and in the meantime she counsels families to give children water and milk to drink.