Health professionals are horrified by a new ad campaign by Coca-Cola promoting its use of artificial sweeteners, including aspartame, because ingredients the iconic company calls “safe” and “high-quality” allegedly cause cancer and other diseases.

“Twenty years ago I wasn’t sure, but now there’s little doubt in my mind that artificial sweeteners can be far worse for you than sugar and fructose, and there is plenty of scientific evidence to back up that conclusion,” wrote Dr. Joseph Mercola in his online blog

The Weston A. Price Foundation had expressed alarm when aspartame was proposed to be used in flavored milks for children without any notice to consumers.

“Numerous scientific studies point to toxic effects of aspartame, including cancer, digestive issues and memory impairment,” the organization said. “In spite of this evidence, the International Dairy Foods Association and the National Milk Producers Federation recently submitted a petition to the FDA to hide the chemical sweetener without declaring it on the front of the packaging.”

The organization said 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 susceptible to damage from excitotoxins like aspartame than those of adults and react with ADD ADHD type symptoms, impaired learning, depression and nausea,” the Price Foundation said.

The federal government, through the FDA itself, also has commented on aspartame.

In a 2002 report by Mark D. Gold of the Aspartame Toxicity Information Center, an epidemiological survey from the Journal of Applied Nutrition asked questions of nearly 600 people who had reported reactions to aspartame.

“The adverse effects found cover a subset of reported actual and chronic toxicity effects from aspartame, [including] blindness, convulsions, severe depression, diarrhea, aggravated hypoglycemia, and susceptibility to infection,” the report said.

“Frequently, aspartame toxicity is misdiagnosed as a specific disease. This has yet to be reported in the scientific literature, yet it has been reported countless times to independent organizations and scientists … In other cases, it has been reported that chronic aspartame ingestion has triggered or worsened certain chronic illnesses.”

According to a report in Adweek, Coca-Cola’s big campaign is defending “sugar alternatives like aspartame.”

The promotions were lined up for USA Today, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Chicago Tribune.

“It’s Coca-Cola’s first ad explicitly defending its use of artificial sweeteners in an ad,” the report said.

Coca-Cola said “people have always been able to trust the quality of our products and everything that goes into them.”

“That’s something that will never change.”

Then Coca-Cola answers concerns “about the use of low- and no-calorie sweeteners.”

“Our use of high-quality, low- and no-calorie sweeteners, including aspartame, allows us to give people great-tasting options they can feel good about. Time and again, these low- and no-calorie sweeteners have shown to be safe, high-quality alternatives to sugar.”

Mercola, on his blog, quoted from Michael F. Jacobson of the Center for Science in the Public Interest: “Aspartame has been found to cause cancer – leukemia, lymphoma,and other tumors – in laboratory animals, and it shouldn’t be in the food supply. We certainly want Coca-Cola to shift its product mix toward lower- and no-calorie drinks, but aspartame’s reputation isn’t worth rehabilitating with this propaganda campaign.”

Wrote Mercola: “Besides pulling the wool over your eyes with regards to the lack of overall safety of aspartame, I think the FTC would be warranted to sue Coke and the other diet soda manufacturers for fraudulent advertising, seeing how: 1. There’s no scientific evidence showing that the use of diet sodas actually lead[s] to weight loss. … 2. Scientific evidence shows that aspartame actually worsens insulin sensitivity to a greater degree than sugar.

“Tell Coke they’re a joke!” he continued, including links to Facebook and email on his page. “Obesity and related metabolic diseases are serious public health problems in the United States, and you are being sorely misled by companies pretending to have a solution that, in reality, only worsen the problem. I strongly urge you to let the Coca-Cola Company know how you feel by telling them to stop their deceptive marketing of soda products. Especially their fake ‘public announcement’ ads for aspartame.”

Salle Fallon Morell of the Weston A. Price Foundation told WND the artificial sweeteners are toxic.

“We know these things are not safe. … They’re especially not safe for children,” she said, noting some components turn to formaldehyde and methanol in the stomach.”

The FDA report cited a long list of clinical reports on “aspartame-caused toxicity reactions.”

“Many pilots appear to be particularly susceptible to the effects of aspartame ingestion. They have reported numerous serious toxicity effects including grand mal seizures in the cockpit (Stoddard 1995). Nearly 1,000 cases of pilot reactions have been reported to the Aspartame Consumer Safety Network Pilot Hotline (Stoddard 1995),” the report said.

“Potential toxicity effects from aspartame including brain cancer (as seen in pre-approval research) and effects on fetal brain and nervous system development,” it said.

The FDA document said there have been an estimated 7,500 reports ranging from mild to “very serious illnesses.”

Listen to a podcast from Kimberly Hartke of the Price Foundation on the issue of aspartame:

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