A reduction in the consumption of added sugars and sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) is a key focus of public health recommendations for a healthy diet among children. One approach to lower added sugar intake is to instead use low-calorie sweeteners (LCSs), which contain no or few calories. Consumption of LCSs is increasing worldwide, with the most marked rise observed among children and adolescents. However, the extent to which LCS consumption is helpful or harmful for weight management is controversial, particularly when LCS consumption begins in childhood. Herein, we summarize the limited existing literature examining effects of paediatric LCS consumption on appetite, energy intake, and body weight. While positive associations between LCS consumption and weight gain are reported in observational analyses, the majority of intervention studies, some of which blinded children to the contents of the drinks, report benefits of LCSs for reducing excessive child weight gain. Several potential mechanisms have been proposed to explain LCS effects on body weight, including LCS-induced promotion of appetite and energy intake. Yet studies assessing effects of beverages with LCSs (LCSBs) compared with SSBs on child appetite report mixed findings. Some demonstrate that children completely compensate for the diluted energy content of LCSBs by eating more solid food calories at subsequent meals compared with children administered SSBs, while others report a reduction in total energy intake with LCSB ingestion. Given the limited studies and resulting uncertainty as to whether LCSs benefit or worsen weight and metabolic health in children is integral that effects of LCS use during childhood continue to be investigated in future prospective studies.
Keywords: artificial sweeteners; diet beverages; nonnutritive sweeteners; obesity.
© 2019 World Obesity Federation.