Artificial sweeteners, also known as sugar substitutes, are chemicals that are many times sweeter than table sugar, so smaller amounts are needed to create the same level of sweetness. The sweeteners approved by the Food and Drug Administration include saccharin, aspartame, acesulfame potassium, sucralose, stevia, neotame and advantame. People choose to use these chemicals to avoid the bad effects known to happen with nutritive sweeteners such as sugar. The initial worry about using these chemicals was the concern about the possibility of causing cancer, but studies have not shown that to be a risk.

However, there is still much unknown about their use regarding their impact on appetite and taste preference, how much is used in the pediatric population, and their impact on pediatric obesity, metabolic syndrome, attention-deficit/hyperactive disorder and autism. Recently a policy statement was published in Pediatrics by the Committee on Nutrition with the following findings and recommendations.

Sally Robinson is a clinical professor of pediatrics at UTMB Children’s Hospital. This column isn’t intended to replace the advice of your child’s physician.

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