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Kids Are Eating Nearly 200% More Added Sugar, New Study Shows

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The number of children who eat or drink artificial sweeteners has skyrocketed over the years, with a nearly 200% increase from 1999 to 2012, a new study shows.

The survey results, published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, reveal that in 1999, less than 9% of kids consumed low-calorie sweeteners, which are common in diet sodas and low-calorie and low-fat processed foods. That number rose to about 25% in 2012, and even children as young as two are consuming them, the study finds.

 Artificial sweeteners remain a debated health topic, but growing evidence suggests that fake sugar isn’t a worry-free food. Sugar substitutes promise fewer calories, but they’ve recently been linked to obesity and diabetes. The new study found that the likelihood that a person consumed low-calorie sweeteners rose with body mass index; close to 20% of adults with obesity consumed these sweeteners three times a day or more, compared to 13% of normal-weight adults. A 2016 study also found that pregnant women who consumed more artificial sweeteners in beverages were twice as likely to have children that were overweight or obese at one year, compared to women who consumed less.

More research is needed into the health effects of artificial sweeteners. For now, study author Allison Sylvetsky, assistant professor of exercise and nutrition sciences at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health, endorses an easy fix: to “drink water instead of soda” and to “sweeten a serving of plain yogurt with a little fruit.”

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