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Low calorie sweeteners safe for children and pregnant women

Are Low Calorie Sweeteners Safe for Children and Pregnant Women?

I have been compensated for my time by McNeil Nutritionals, LLC, the maker of SPLENDA® Sweetener Products. All statements and opinions are my own. I have pledged to Blog With Integrity, asserting that the trust of my readers and the blogging community is vitally important to me. 

The most successful clients I ever saw in my 30+ years providing nutrition therapy to individuals and families were pregnant women. They could break a bad habit overnight and maintain a new one without missing a beat. As proud as I was of their results, I knew it wasn’t because I was such an exceptional counselor. It was because they were all so exceptionally motivated.

They knew their food choices didn’t just affect their own health, and that made all the difference.

One of the most frequently asked questions I got from these women – and they asked a lot of questions – was if it was safe to use low calorie sweeteners while pregnant. Many of them learned the calorie-saving advantages of drinking diet soda in their teens and developed the habit of sweetening their coffee with a no-cal sweetener packet, like SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener, while in college. They wanted to continue these simple and satisfying weight control strategies during their pregnancy, but needed reassurance.

The advice I gave these clients of mine was the same whether they were pregnant, nursing or making decisions about what to feed their children. I told them low calorie sweeteners are safe for us all because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval process for all food additives, including low calorie sweeteners, covers the entire population since food is equally available to everyone (while drugs require a prescription). If the FDA does feel certain consumers must be made aware of particular ingredients in the food supply, they require food companies to list them on their food labels. That is why there is a statement on products containing phenylalanine to alert those who must avoid it due to a condition called phenylketonuria (PKU).

I would then tap into their motivation by telling them the rest of their diet (or their child’s) matters much more than any one food, beverage or ingredient, such as low calorie sweeteners. My goal was to help them look at the big picture when it comes to food and nutrition, or as we dietitians like to say, take The Total Diet Approach. Eating the recommended servings of fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods, dairy and oils each day is essential to good health, yet easily overlooked if distracted by the latest diet fads.

If my clients asked for evidence to back up my claim that low calorie sweeteners are safe for them to use, I would then refer them to the information on sugar substitutes provided by the American Academy of Family Physicians, which addresses many of the questions families have about the use of low calorie sweeteners. If they still had doubts, I would encourage them to discuss their concerns with their personal physician since he or she is the most qualified person to discuss their health needs. I would remind them that some of the people making unfounded criticisms on the Internet have no medical or other professional qualifications, and that such claims on the Internet are not regulated by anyone. You have to wonder what motivates some of them?

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN, “The Everyday RD,” is an author and nutrition consultant who has headed the nutrition services department in a large teaching hospital and maintained a private practice where she provided diet therapy to individuals and families. With more than 30 years of experience, Robyn is motivated by the opportunity to help people make the best eating decisions for their everyday diet. She believes that choosing what to eat should not be a daily battle and aims to separate the facts from the fiction so you can enjoy eating well.

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October 31, 2014  |  POSTED BY: Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN  |  IN: Debunk the Junk Science, Sugar Substitutes

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