(Healthline) – Parents looking for alternatives to sugar should be careful when selecting foods that promise less sugar. You may be getting less sugar, but your family could be eating questionable sugar alternatives.
Today, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) published “The Use of Nonnutritive Sweeteners in Children.” The report calls for more research into the sweeteners and their effect on kids, especially when it comes to the risk for type 2 diabetes and obesity.
The AAP is also pushing for products to list the amount of the sweeteners on product labels so families know exactly what they’re consuming. Currently, food manufacturers only have to name nonnutritive sweeteners on the ingredient list.
“Considering how many children are regularly consuming these products — which have become ubiquitous — we should have a better understanding of how they impact children’s long-term health,” Dr. Carissa Baker-Smith, lead author and a pediatric cardiologist, said in a statement.
What are nonnutritive sweeteners?
At least 1 in 4 children consumes a nonnutritive or artificial sweetener, the AAP reported. And about 80 percent of children consume them daily.
There are eight nonnutritive sweeteners that are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). (The first six were approved as food additives; the latter two were under a different designation.)
Saccharin: It’s often added to yogurt and low-sugar jelly. According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), this along with aspartame, acesulfame potassium, and sucralose should be avoided. “Their analysis is based on the fact that there is a lack of research on safety for some of these sweeteners. In some cases, such as with aspartame, sucralose, and saccharin, there have been studies linking it to cancer risk and other health problems,” noted Sharon Palmer, a registered dietitian nutritionist from California.
Aspartame: This is in many brands of diet soda, as well as Jell-O, Equal, and NutraSweet.
Acesulfame potassium: You’ll find this in some packaged fruits that say no sugar is added, as well as SlimFast and some diet sodas. It came in second for being in the most products surveyed, and also goes by the name acesulfame K.
Sucralose: Often found in diet soda, Lean Pockets, and Splenda. It was in the most amount of products studied.
Neotame: This is found in Sunny D, some chewing gum, and protein shakes.
Advantame: Derived from aspartame, it’s often in beverages and beverage powders as well as cooking and baking products.
Stevia: This was approved as “generally recognized as safe” by the FDA and is on CSPI’s safe list.
Luo Han Guo/Monk Fruit: Also “generally recognized as safe” by the FDA, this is on the CSPI’s list to be cautious of due to a lack of testing.