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Americans are outraged over a scheme to add artificial sweeteners – including one chemical with purported links to abnormal brain function and weight gain – to flavored milks served to school children.
As WND reported, milk industry heavyweights, including the International Dairy Foods Association and the National Milk Producers Federation, have asked the federal government for permission to include artificial sweeteners such as aspartame in milk products for schools, without alerting parents and children.
Now the Weston A. Price Foundation, a nonprofit nutrition education organization, and other groups are urging consumers to file comments in protest of the milk industry’s petition to the Food & Drug Administration.
According to the sweeteners’ makers, “Aspartame is one of the most thoroughly studied food ingredients ever, with more than 200 scientific studies supporting its safety.”
However, the Weston A. Price Foundation warns, “Numerous scientific studies point to toxic effects of aspartame, including cancer, digestive issues and memory impairment.”
The foundation also noted, “Researchers and holistic health advocates have warned about the toxicity of artificial sweeteners for many years:
- “Thousands of adverse reactions to aspartame have been reported to the FDA, mostly concerned with abnormal brain function, brain tumors, epilepsy and Parkinson’s.
- “Children’s brains are four times more are more susceptible to damage from excitotoxins like aspartame than those of adults and react with ADD ADHD type symptoms, impaired learning, depression and nausea.
- “People who are sensitive to aspartame can have life-threatening reactions to it.”
The Weston A. Price Foundation cited a 2012 scientific study published in the European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences, titled “Studies on the effects of aspartame on memory and oxidative stress in brain of mice,” which found impaired memory performance and increased brain oxidative stress by repeated aspartame administration.
Also, the group noted that the International Journal of Genomics published a study, “In Vivo Cytogenetic Studies on Aspartame,” where scientists observed significant chromosomal aberrations in the bone marrow cells of mice following exposure to aspartame. Because of the genotoxicity they found, scientists advised caution when using aspartame in food and beverages as a sweetener.
According to another Swiss study with mice and rats, published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine in December 2010, aspartame exposure was found to be especially harmful for pre-term fetus, rats of both genders and male mice. Scientists found aspartame to be a carcinogenic agent in multiple sites (liver and lung) in mice and rats and that its effects are increased when exposure starts from prenatal life.
Dr. Joseph Mercola, an osteopathic physician who has been heavily criticized by some mainstream medical experts, has plenty to say about aspartame’s purported health effects. Dr. Mehmet Oz, America’s most widely known cardiothoracic surgeon, introduced Mercola on a 2011 “Dr. Oz” show as “the most controversial guest I’ve ever had on my show, a pioneer of holistic treatments and a lightning rod for debate … the man your doctor doesn’t want you to listen to.”
Mercola – who is known for challenging traditional medicine, placing heavy emphasis on healthy eating and exercise rather than relying on what he calls “toxic medications” – called aspartame “by far the most dangerous substance on the market that is added to foods.”
“Aspartame accounts for over 75 percent of the adverse reactions to food additives reported to the FDA,” Mercola’s website states. “Many of these reactions are very serious including seizures and death. A few of the 90 different documented symptoms listed in the report as being caused by aspartame include: Headaches/migraines, dizziness, seizures, nausea, numbness, muscle spasms, weight gain, rashes, depression, fatigue, irritability, tachycardia, insomnia, vision problems, hearing loss, heart palpitations, breathing difficulties, anxiety attacks, slurred speech, loss of taste, tinnitus, vertigo, memory loss, and joint pain.”
Mercola calls the dairy industry’s demands to add artificial sweeteners to milk “a move that could endanger your health for decades to come, and disproportionally harm underprivileged children who rely on school lunches for the bulk of their nutrition.”
He said the proposed change is the industry’s effort at:
- “Fooling your kids into drinking otherwise unpopular fat free or low fat milk, and
- “Allowing the national school breakfast and lunch programs to ‘look good’ by successfully reducing overall calories of the meals while simultaneously helping the dairy industry protect profits”
“How can anyone believe a fat free, hormone-laced pasteurized milk-like product from cows raised on genetically engineered corn, flavored with artificial flavors, colors and chemical sweeteners might actually do a growing body good?” Mercola asked. “The nutritional illiteracy within these agencies is staggering, yet they’re responsible for making decisions that affect over 30 million school children across the U.S. on a daily basis.”
While some critics, including the Weston A. Price Foundation, have reported that artificial sweeteners have been linked to increased cancer rates, “Dr. Oz” guest and medical correspondent for the health care website Healthination.com Dr. Keri Peterson stated, “There is absolutely no evidence that these sweeteners cause cancer in humans.”
She noted that the FDA lifted artificial sweeteners from its list of cancer-causing chemicals in 2000. The National Cancer Institute states, “There is no clear evidence that the artificial sweeteners available commercially in the United States are associated with cancer risk in humans.”
The FDA originally sought to ban the artificial sweetener saccharin in the 1970s because rats ingesting the chemical developed bladder cancer. But the federal agency withdrew the proposal to ban the substance in 1991, claiming no conclusive spike in cancers could be observed in humans. A 2007 study at an Italian cancer research institute found that rats ingesting aspartame suffered from higher rates of leukemia and lymphomas. However, some researchers claim findings have been too weak to pinpoint aspartame as a cause of cancers.
Peterson also claimed the sweeteners do not cause neurological damage. However, she warned, the sweeteners can cause weight gain because they trick the brain into consuming larger quantities of food to satisfy a normal sugar craving.
Critics often point to the questionable process by which aspartame came to be approved by the FDA. A 1980 FDA Board of Inquiry, made up of three independent scientists, warned that the chemical “might induce brain tumors.”
However, on Jan. 21, 1981, following President Ronald Reagan’s inauguration, the new FDA commissioner, Arthur Hayes Hull Jr., tasked a five-person commission with reviewing the board’s decision. When it appeared the panel would uphold the aspartame ban until further studies could be performed, Hull appointed a sixth person to the commission, deadlocking the vote.
Then Hull – who would later work for the public relations firm for both Monsanto and GD Searle, the companies that made aspartame – personally broke the deadlock in favor of allowing the chemical on the market.
The following 1996 CBS “60 Minutes” segment from the late-Mike Wallace investigated reports of brain tumors and flaws in the FDA approval process:
If the FDA approves the dairy industry's current plan, the "milk" label would remain on the front of packages of the chemically altered products – but with no mention of reduced calories or added artificial sweeteners. (The artificial sweeteners would still be listed in small print on the back of the container.)
Greg Miller of the National Dairy Council insisted the dairy industry is not "trying to be sneaky." He told NPR, "Kids don't like the term 'low-calorie.' It's a turnoff."
The dairy industry's petition to the FDA also asks for permission to put hidden artificial sweeteners in many other dairy products, including nonfat dried milk (always added to reduced-fat milks), yogurt, cream, half-and-half, sour cream, eggnog and whipping cream.
"The integrity of our food supply is poised for another blow," said Sally Fallon Morell, president and founder of the Weston A. Price Foundation. "By asking the FDA to alter the definition of 'milk' to include chemical sweeteners such as aspartame and sucralose without full disclosure will only lead to further distrust among consumers. This is a bad idea for consumers and not a smart idea for the industry either."
Concerned individuals may also sign the consumer petition urging the FDA to reject efforts to infuse milk and other dairy products with artificial sweeteners.