Is Aspartame in milk given to children a good idea?

12 Mar

Moi wrote in New emphasis on obesity: Possible unintended consequences, eating disorders:

The C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital is reporting in the study, School Obesity Programs May Promote Worrisome Eating Behaviors and Physical Activity in Children:

Report Highlights

82% of parents report at least one school-based intervention aimed at preventing childhood obesity within their children’s schools.

30% of parents of children age 6-14 report worrisome eating behaviors and physical activity in their children.

7% of parents say that their children have been made to feel bad at school about what or how much they were eating.

B.A. Birch reports about the Mott study in the Education News article, Report: School Food Programs Could Trigger Eating Disorders:

David Rosen, a professor of Pediatrics and Psychiatry at the University of Michigan, said:

We have to be really careful that we’re not putting things out there, particularly to younger kids, that might be misinterpreted, not be given appropriate supervision, and being done in ways that kids can, or some kids, can go off in dangerous directions and have bad outcomes.”

Rosen believes it is important that parents talk to their children about what they’re being told at the schools and to keep an eye out for worrying behavior.

Parents need to know what’s going on in school. They need to be able to talk with their kids about the information they’re getting in schools, be attentive to any changes they’re seeing in their kids, particularly if those behaviors seem to persist or seem to be getting worse.

We think the parents ought to be talking to schools about this kind of education.”

The schools must also take responsibility, says Rosen. Officials should pay attention to the outcomes of their programs.

The key is moderation in both eating habits and exercise. The latest battle in the obesity fight in the school lunch program centers on adding Aspartame to milk consumed by children.

Allison Aubrey reports in the NPR article, Can Milk Sweetened With Aspartame Still Be Called Milk?

The dairy industry has a problem. Despite studies demonstrating milk’s nutritional benefits, people are drinking less and less of it.

Even children are increasingly opting for water or other low-cal options — including diet soda and artificially sweetened sports drinks.

So how can milk — especially school kids’ favorite, chocolate milk — compete in the low-cal arena? The dairy industry has a strategy: Swap the sugar that’s added to flavored milks for a zero-calorie sweetener such as aspartame (or other options such as plant-based stevia).

Now, in order to pull this off, the dairy industry has some regulatory hoops to jump through. Currently, if dairy producers want to add an artificial or no-cal sweetener, the resulting beverage is no longer allowed to be called milk (it wouldn’t meet the FDA’s technical definition of milk).

So the dairy industry is petitioning the Food and Drug Administration to change the standard of what qualifies as milk. The industry wants the iconic MILK label to remain on the front of the package, without any mention of the reduced calories — or the added artificial sweeteners (at least, not on the front label). And the FDA has opened up this petition for public comment.

“Kids don’t like the term ‘low-calorie,’ ” says Greg Miller of the National Dairy Council. “It’s a turnoff.”

Some school districts have banned flavored milk because of the high-calorie content. And some studies suggest that when you take chocolate milk out of schools, consumption of milk declines. During a phone interview, Miller told The Salt that the industry’s petition is aimed at offering school districts a lower-calorie milk option that kids will actually want to drink.

Miller says the petition does not seek to change existing regulations that require added sweeteners (such as aspartame or stevia) to be named in the list of ingredients — usually found on the back of a container.

“We are not trying to be sneaky,” Miller says.

But so far, lots of folks seem skeptical of the plan.

More than 90,000 people have joined a new online petition organized by, a consumer advocacy group, opposing the dairy industry’s petition.

And nutrition experts are weighing in, too, including Barry Popkin of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who has studied the links between sugary drinks and obesity. If the goal is to reduce the amount of calories that kids get from sweetened beverages, then removing sugar from flavored milk is one option, he says.

“If the option is flavored (milk) with diet (sweetener) vs. regular sugar, then diet (sweetener) is favored,” he wrote to us in an email.

But he says there’s no evidence that kids need flavored milk, such as chocolate milk. “It has not been shown to increase milk intake,” he says. The dairy industry disagrees.

And the dairy industry’s petition is also facing opposition from school food advocates.

“I think it’s unconscionable,” says school chef Ann Cooper, who’s been working to reform the way kids eat at school. She argues that parents and students will have a hard time discerning what’s in the milk.

The effects of Aspartame on children has been studied.

For a concise description of Aspartame’s effects on children, see Cydney Walker’s Livestrong article, The Effects of Aspartame on Kids:

Aspartame is an artificial sweetener that has been implicated in causing health problems since its use in processed foods and medications. It is made from two naturally occuring amino acids, L-phenylalanine and L-aspartic acid; when combined, it provides a sweetness that is 200 times greater than regular sugar, as stated by Aspartame Information Center. Testing was performed on the sweetener and the Food and Drug Administration provided the sweetener with the title of GRAS, generally recognized as safe.


The Aspartame Information Center states to date, no studies have shown conclusive evidence that aspartame causes aggressive behavior in children. Dr. Paul, a pediatrician, states that in small amounts found in medication, aspartame is safe for children. Drinking diet drinks is not considered safe as the amount of aspartame consumed by a small child is twice the recommended amount.

Brain Tumors

Aspartame has been stated to cause brain tumors in monkeys used to test the safety of the artificial sweetener. Osteopathic physician Dr. Mercola states that long-term use of phenylalanine products increases byproduct of diketopiperazine. This chemical is made by your body when metabolizing aspartame into the respective amino acids and formaldehyde. Diketopiperazine is a cause for concern because this chemical is implicated in causing brain tumors, especially when consumed from liquid products. Liquids that contain aspartame that are stored for long periods can have an increase in diketopiperazine levels. James Gurney, a researcher investigating brain tumor incidence, states brain tumors in both children and adults have increased since the release of aspartame in the 1980s, but concludes after review of multiple studies that the occurrence of brain tumors caused by aspartame is unlikely. When consumed in moderation, aspartame doesn’t pose a threat to the development of brain tumors in children.

Nerve Cell Death

Excitotoxins are chemicals that stimulate your nerve cells to fire continuously, and can cause premature death. Aspartic acid found in aspartame turns into a nerve cell stimulator with glutamic acid that is circulating around the blood. According to Dr. Mercola, 75 percent of the neurons are killed before chronic disease is noticed and diagnosed. This is critical for children because the blood brain barrier that usually protects an adult brain from exocitoxins is not developed enough in children. Higher levels of glutamate and aspartic acid in children’s brains could lead to heightened brain activity in children, thus causing behavioral problems.


Phenylalanine is the other component of aspartame that may predispose children to mood disorders. Phenylalanine accumulates in the blood of persons without phenylketonuria, which is a genetic disorder where phenylalaine isn’t broken down and collects in the brain. According to Dr. Mercola, phenylalanine, when combined with carbohydrates, can increases the blood and brain levels of the amino acid in persons without phenylketonuria. Increased phenylalanine levels interupt serotonin levels, causing depression.

For reliable and official information about aspartame


Aspartame withdrawal and side effects explained – Here’s how to protect yourself

The History of Aspartame,_Ashley_-_The_History_of_Aspartame.html

Clearly the scope of the science is outside moi’s expertise, but she has a strong caution against allowing this additive to milk consumed by children. There are some big $$$ interests and those who want children to consume HEALTHY FOOD will have to remain vigilant.

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