American children are drinking too many sweetened drinks. According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, most boys drink 15 teaspoons of refined sugar every day and most girls drink about 10 teaspoons. All of that sugar comes from sweetened beverages and amounts to the total amount of sugar that children should be ingesting each day. Sweetened beverages such as sodas, Gatorade, and fruit drinks with high fructose corn syrup are contributing to the growing waistlines of our nation’s children. In reaction to this, many children are switching to diet beverages.
A new study using data from a federal health survey shows that 12.5% of children drink artificially sweetened beverages. This number is up from 6% a decade ago. The study also found that a quarter of Americans surveyed had consumed a diet drink in the past day, up from 19% in 1999. These numbers come from a 2007-2008 health survey, so it is likely that the current numbers are even higher.

Diet Drinks:  The Healthier Option?

While artificially sweetened drinks like diet sodas and diet juices have fewer calories than sugary beverages, it is currently unclear whether they are any healthier for children. It is also unclear whether diet drinks versus sweetened drinks help children stay thin. There is currently too little research surrounding artificial sweeteners and the chemicals found in diet drinks to state conclusively whether such beverages are an improvement over their sugary counterparts. In some research, animals that were fed artificial sweeteners gained weight, suggesting that even though the sweeteners are low-calorie or calorie-free, they have a negative effect on metabolism.
Some research has shown that people who consume diet beverages are at increased risk of diabetes and heart problems, but the studies only show a correlation and do not actually prove that artificially sweetened drinks are the cause of such problems.What is clear is that people who prefer water over artificially sweetened drinks tend to have fewer weight problems.

Limiting Kids Exposure to Diet Drinks

If you’re concerned about what your child is drinking, the best thing that you can do is limit the number and type of sugary and artificially sweetened beverages in your home. Kids will drink what they have available to them in the fridge. If their options are water, decaffeinated iced tea, low-fat milk, or fruit juice mixed with club soda, that’s what they’ll drink. Set a good example for your kids and be aware of what they’re putting in their bodies, and you can help them live happier, healthier lives.