Children drinking soft drinks rates double

The rate of children consuming low-calories or no-calorie sweetened beverage has more than doubled over during the past decade in the US.

According to data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), researchers found that 6.1% of children reported drinking sugar-free soft drinks in 1999-2000, in comparison to over one tenth in 2007-2008.

Adults’ consumption of artificially sweetened drinks has increased during that time too, though not as rapidly, from 18.7% in 1999-2000 to 24.1% in 2007-2008.

Led by Allison Sylvetsky of Emory University in Atlanta, the research team gave many possible reasons for the increase in consumption of sugar-free soft drinks including obesity prevention campaigns, increased negative health associations of excessive sugar consumption in recent years, or increased prevalence of type 2 diabetes.

However, they added that further research was necessary to determine the health effects of low-calorie sweetener consumption on young children, if any.

The research team said: “Given recent discussions of taxing sugar-sweetened beverages and banning regular sodas in school systems and the growing popularity of differential pricing structures to promote healthier choices, it can be anticipated that LCS [low-calorie sweetener] consumption will increase further.

“Most importantly, given the rapid increases in LCS consumption among children, their long-term effects, particularly when started in the early years, need to be studied”.

Calling for further research into artificial sweetener consumption and weight management, they cite previous research that has suggested a correlation between high consumption of artificially sweetened soft drinks and increased prevalence of overweight and obesity.

However, it is not clear whether artificial sweetener actually cause weight gain, or whether overweight individuals are more likely to consume artificially sweetened drinks in an effort to control their weight.

As the authors found consumption rates of sugar-free soft drinks to be high, there was little change in consumption rates of foods containing low-calorie sweeteners between the two periods they examined.

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