While it's sort of a myth that high sugar intake always equates to a hyperactive, wall-bouncing toddler, many parents still prefer to avoid sugar for their children if possible. As a mom, I'd call this a worthy cause with the rising obesity rate and widespread addition of unnecessary sugar to kid-type-foods. This is not to say that sugar itself is causing obesity or is even unhealthy; simply, that like most things in life, it should be used in moderation. For parents, sugar in moderation can sadly be a hard goal to meet. As a result, many turn to sugar alternatives for kids not realizing that some options are not only no better than sugar, but are flat out dangerous.
What sugar alternatives exist?
Common typical table sugar or "sucrose" substitutes include:
-Splenda, Sukrana, SucraPlus, Candys, Cukren,Nevella, Kaltame (Sucralose)
-Equal, NutraSweet, Aminosweet, Canderal (Aspartame)
-Sunett, Sweet One, Nutrinova (Acesulfame potassium)
-SugarTwin, Sweet'N Low (Saccharin)
-Stevia, Truvia, Pure Via
-Neotame (Also a Nutrasweet product)
Many of these products can be purchased for cooking and baking, or may be added in "sugar-free" or reduced sugar options you can buy in stores.
Are sugar substitutes safe for kids?
This article could get really long if we went into a study analysis of each of the above options. What you should know is not a single one has 100 percent positive feedback in the scientific world health wise. Here's a brief overview of the pros and cons so to speak of using sugar substitutes for toddlers.
It is true that the majority of the above lists are calorie free while sugar is, of course, not. However, the dieting world was shocked in 2008 when artificial sweeteners were actually linked to a higher rate of weight gain than sugar. Though the difference seems small (within pounds), as of 2010 it would appear there isn't really a weight-based advantage to switching from real sugar.
This is one category where the fake stuff wins. Most artificial sweeteners don't raise blood sugar levels. Sudden spikes in blood sugar are actually what cause hyperactivity in toddlers after sugar consumption. It should be noted, that blood sugar spikes can occur without actual sugar consumption. For instance, foods high in carbohydrates like white bread can affect blood sugar levels. "Sugar highs" parents see can often be avoided by aiming for a balance of carbs and sugar with protein and fiber whether artificial sweeteners are used or not.
Sugar substitutes also don't affect dental health as negatively as sugar. Regardless of your sugar choice, proper dental care is better than a dietary switch in any case.
The verdict on sugar substitutes for kids:
The fact is, just like sugar, these artificial substitutes should be used in moderation. Each and every one also has some controversy research that can be found suggesting dangerous health effects such as cancer. While these claims may or may not be true, there aren't such claims about real sugar or other natural sweeteners such as honey. In general parents are better simply aiming to reduce sugar intake rather than replace it. If you do decide to try a substitute, or need to do so due to diabetes, remember to heavily research the specific sweetener. Seek out neutral sources and read all of the studies on the subject so you can draw an informed conclusion.
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