Artificial sweeteners are not the problem

The Pediatric Insider

© 2012 Roy Benaroch, MD

Jennifer wrote in, “We always have Minute Maid Lite Lemonade in our house because it’s my go-to drink when I am tired of water. On occasion, my daughter asks if she can have some. So she may have one – two cans a week. I remember from when I was pregnant that artificial sweeteners were on the “things to avoid list” because they could cause problems with the development of the fetus. I have asked in the past about her having drinks with artificial sweeteners and from what I remember, a little was ok. I was wondering what your feelings are on this topic.”

I’ve seen no evidence whatsoever that any artificial sweetener, when consumed in ordinary amounts, causes any ill-effects in people—that’s including children, pregnant women, and not-yet-born babies. What I do know is that sweeteners with calories are sure creating a whole lot of health problems. So which is better, the artificial, no-calorie sweeteners, or sugar and corn syrup?

The huge nutritional problem in the developed world is obesity, caused by over-nutrition. We’re swimming in calories, and adults and children are consuming far more calories than we need. About 1 in 3 kids are already overweight by the time they start school, and most of these children will be overweight adults. Many will have their lives shortened by diabetes and heart disease, many will be picked on in school, and many will not live to enjoy time with their grandkids.

The best thing for children and adults to drink is water. Tasty, cold ice water, right from the tap is essentially free. Skim milk is also good for ya. For an occasional treat, have whatever else you want. Don’t worry about an occasional Diet Coke or Lite Lemonade. But don’t get in the habit of drinking high-calorie, sugar drinks (including juice, which is as bad as soda) every day. Once that becomes a habit, it’s very difficult to stop.

The problem isn’t the artificial sweeteners. The problem is the real sweeteners.

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5 Comments on “Artificial sweeteners are not the problem”


  1. Agreed. But the nicest thing these days is that even if you have a problem with these fake sugars, products are popping up everywhere that are sweetened with stevia! As I type I am sipping on some Cream Soda ZEVIA! ha ha. It’s delicious!

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  2. Dr. Roy Says:

    Yeah, but I think stevia tastes kind of weird. To each his (her?) own!

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  3. CHD mom Says:

    I was told by my daughters cardiologist that she shouldn’t have any drinks with artificial sweeteners..specifically aspartame as it can raise blood pressure. She is 4 and in 15th weight percentile so I assume amounts in a drink that would affect normal people would affect her a lot more. (She has severe heart defects and a prosthetic mitral valve and is on enalapril and warfarin so bp is an issue already)

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  4. Alison Says:

    In case anyone else reads these comments later. Aspartamine is detoxed in the liver to formaldehyde and is a known neurotoxin. If your brain is already developed, do whatever you want, but children are actually more likely to be damaged by exposure because of their developing bodies. Sugar not fake.

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  5. Dr. Roy Says:

    Alison is repeating a well-disproven canard about aspartame. It’s true that a breakdown product is formeldehyde, but that’s quickly detoxified– and in fact ordinary fruit juice will produce far more (and just as safe) formeldehyde as aspartame. For a very detailed review of this manufactered controversy: http://whatdoesthesciencesay.wordpress.com/2010/06/13/aspartame-and-formaldehyde/

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