Is it safe for my kids to eat artificial sweeteners? A few years back, I remember that one of them was getting a bad rap. This really bothers me, because I buy plenty of “sugar-free” products sweetened with saccharin, aspartame, and a weird one called acesulfame-K.
As of now, it’s safe to allow your kids to eat small amounts of products containing artificial sweeteners, especially if you’re trying to control obesity or diabetes.
The “bad rap” you’re talking about is due to some research indicating that large amounts of saccharin may cause cancer in experimental animals, and concern that acesulfame-K might do the same since it’s structurally similar to saccharin. But this hasn’t been shown to be true in humans.
Based on the research available to date, the Food and Drug Administration has recommended maximum dosages for children for several sweeteners:
- Saccharin: 500 mg/day, which corresponds to 1/2 of one pink packet.
- Aspartame (Equal): 50 mg/kg of body weight, or 1 gram for a 44-pound (20 kg) child.
Since these recommendations allow only small amounts of artificial sweeteners, you’ll want to limit your children’s intake of diet sodas, puddings, gelatins and baked goods. Putting a cap on the amount you eat of sweetened foods – whether natural or artificial – also makes good nutritional sense.