Is Sucralose Safe for Children?

Although sucralose, also known as Splenda, is a calorie-free way to sweeten food and drinks and generally recognized as safe, it's not necessarily the best choice for kids – even overweight children. New York University Langone Medical Center reports that sucralose is confirmed safe for children but suggests limiting sucralose and other artificial sweeteners in your child's diet.

A young child sipping from a soda cup. (Image: coolly168/iStock/Getty Images)

Limited Studies

A 2010 review published in the "International Journal of Pediatric Obesity" reports that artificially sweetened beverage consumption is increasing among children. The authors of this review, however, suggest that trials studying the effects of artificial sweeteners on children are limited, and controversy exists on whether artificial sweeteners are beneficial – or problematic -- for children.

Effects on Body Weight

Studies on the effects of sucralose on childhood obesity show mixed results. Because sucralose is calorie-free, using it in place of sugar may help overweight children reduce their total calorie intake. The 2010 review in the "International Journal of Pediatric Obesity" reports that some studies indicate children who consume artificially sweetened foods between meals may consume fewer overall calories. The same review, however, reports that other studies show an association between artificial-sweetener intake, mainly from diet soda, and weight gain in children. Another 2010 review in "Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine" reports similar results.

Concerns for Kids

Although sucralose may not directly harm your child, it doesn't offer essential nutrients – such as carbohydrates, protein, essential fatty acids, vitamins and minerals -- that children require for proper growth and development. Therefore, eating too many sucralose-containing foods may prevent your child from meeting his daily nutritional needs. In addition, the 2010 review in "Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine" reports that because artificial sweeteners -- including sucralose -- are sweet, they encourage sugar dependence and sugar cravings.

Bottom Line

Because studies involving effects of sucralose on children are limited and show mixed results, moderation is key if you let your child consume artificially sweetened foods and beverages. NYU Langone Medical Center suggests parents use good judgment when allowing their children to consume these products because it lays a foundation for unhealthy eating habits. Offer your child nutrient-dense foods – such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, nut butters, eggs, dairy products, legumes, whole grains, lean meats, poultry, plant-based oils and avocados -- over artificially sweetened products when possible.

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