Mailbag: Aspartame and milk

2013-03-17T10:15:00Z Mailbag: Aspartame and milk Albany Democrat Herald
March 17, 2013 10:15 am

On Feb. 25, an article was posted at regarding the dairy industry’s petitioning of the FDA to approve aspartame as a hidden, unlabeled additive in milk, yogurt, eggnog and cream products. The International Dairy Foods Association and the National Milk Producers Federation have filed such a petition asking the FDA to alter the definition of “milk” to secretly include chemical sweeteners such as aspartame and sucralose. More importantly, none of these additives need to be listed on the label as they will be buried within the altered definition of “milk” if said petition is upheld.

Aspartame is comprised of aspartic acid, phenylalanine and methyl ester (wood alcohol). As aspartame enters the small intestine, methanol is released and absorbed into the body. Methanol is then metabolized into formaldehyde (embalming fluid) and to formic acid (normally found in the sting of red ants). Due to its low excretion rate, the EPA considers methanol a cumulative poison.

It is recommended that the consumption of methanol be limited to 7.8 milligrams per day. One serving (8 ounces) of a diet beverage contains as much as 14 milligrams. Symptoms of methanol toxicity include vision problems, headaches, dizziness, nausea, gastrointestinal disorders, weakness, behavioral changes and memory loss.

Aspartame was discovered in the mid-1960s by GD Searle, a Chicago drug company. It is also known as, by or under the names Nutrasweet, Equal, Acesulfame Potassium and Aminosweet and is an artificial sweetener/chemical additive.

Originally approved in 1974, concerns over deficiencies and inconsistencies in GD Searle tests halted the marketing of aspartame in dry foods until 1981, despite it being the most contested chemical additive in FDA history due to causation of brain cancer in lab animals. In 1980 the Public Board of Inquiry voted unanimously to reject the use of aspartame until additional studies could be conducted on its ability to cause potential brain tumors.

Justin Klinkebiel

Jefferson (March 14)

Copyright 2015 Albany Democrat Herald. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(6) Comments

  1. mrdthree
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    mrdthree - March 18, 2013 2:19 pm
    I think the 'Reduced Sugar' Label is misleading. I may not agree with everything about aspartame but I see no reason to include it in my diet. When I see the 'Reduced Sugar' label I usually believe I am getting a less sweet food if the food has additional sweetners it is frustrating, especially for yogurt. I want to see something with an artificial sweetner clearly labelled as such ESPECIALLY if it claims to have less sugar..
  2. jegarst
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    jegarst - March 18, 2013 1:47 pm
    Liberty, here is the actual Federal Register link where you can read more about the issue, .

    Under II, Request for Comments, are two points relevant to this matter. Point one says “…flavored milk could contain a non-nutritive sweetener without bearing a nutrient content claim (e.g., “reduced sugar”) as part of its name.” That is, nutrient content, not the name of sweetener. Toxicological risk assessment is about lowering and balancing risks. This whole issue is about getting children to drink milk, instead of sugary beverages that seem more likely connected to long term health problems. If it takes chocolate, artificially-sweetened milk to make this switch, overall children would be far healthier with this change.

    From point two that regulators have every intent of labeling aspartame is this query which says “will the inclusion of the non-nutritive sweeteners in the ingredient statement provide consumers with sufficient information to ensure that consumers are not misled regarding the characteristics of the milk they are purchasing?

    So clearly you will be told what will be in that milk and, as with any sweetener-containing product, you will be informed whether aspartame or another sweetener has been used. You don’t have a gun to your head making you [or anyone you care about] consume ‘reduced sugar’ milk.

    You also need to realize that these underlying folate-methylation health issues exist whether or not one uses aspartame. For example, consider breast cancer and this last line from Beetstra et al, ( "The results of this study suggest that moderate folate deficiency has a stronger effect on chromosomal instability than BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations found in breast cancer families."

    People really need to get off this ridiculous Rumsfeld-FDA approval argument. Folate deficiency was a widespread, yet little recognized issue at the time of approval. All of the early approval concerns raised were based on data from rats that are now understood to have been folate deficient--none could be repeated with more modern corn-based folate, adequate diets. FYI, the widespread folate deficiency problem also caused spina bifida and other birth defects in offspring of deficient mothers. That is what prompted the US, Chile, and Canada regulators to mandate the supplementation of grain products with folate. But that did not occur until 1998, more than a decade after aspartame approval. And this folate insufficiency issue is still inadequately recognized. Australia/New Zealand started fortification recently, But much of the world still hasn’t done this. It has been raised as an issue in the UK, , but I don’t know that outcome. Still much of Europe still has not dealt with the issue. This year’s Norwegian autism study, , confirms the widespread deficiency in Norway. Check out these two free 2008 full text papers from the Canadian Family Physician about this matter, and Also please examine this US list of 909 citations, or this UK list of 221 citations,

    Governments around the world have wasted millions on hundreds of aspartame safety studies with never any support for safety problems primarily due to the ridiculous arguments of websites like those you cite. But in the end 90+ regulatory agencies have concluded aspartame is perfectly safe used as directed at the doses indicated, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) doing so yet again last month.

    My contribution to this issue is recognition that people, who in any way respond to aspartame, are really responding to these numerous folate and folate-related methylation issues OR to frank allergy to aspartame (probably to formate). The latter could have arisen from childhood insect bite sensitization or myriad other causes. Realize allergy issues exist for milk, peanuts, and numerous other foodstuffs; that doesn’t make them unsafe for the majority of people either. So, either problem involves some personal issue with the susceptible user, not with aspartame safety .

    John E. Garst, Ph.D. (Medicinal Chemistry, Pharmacology, Toxicology, and Nutrition)
  3. Liberty
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    Liberty - March 17, 2013 11:16 pm
    So then Jegarst, what is the motivation behind putting Aspartame in children's products such as Pedialyte? If it is merely an additive sweetener then what possible care does a child have for it's unnecessary compounding of naturally occuring metabolic and/or digestive chemicals such as Formaldehyde, if in fact the body naturally produces such in proportion to its utilization in the body...why compound and introduce what isn't essential from an outside source? The most contested chemical additive in history and it isn't a cause for concern? My message is one that hopefully allows people to decide what they want to ingest based on education of supporting and opposing views, not based on a GRAS rating bought out with lobby and governmental sway...Rumsfled was pivotal in Aspartame's propogation and ultimate approval via the FDA...if you wish to continue consuming products that promote and keep this additive on the market it is your choice, as for thanks!
  4. jegarst
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    jegarst - March 17, 2013 10:31 pm
    Liberty, you are incorrect as are each and every website you provide. Claims of safety concerns with aspartame are ridiculous. It is the most tested substance in history; the furans from corn are more threatening. And actually any sensitivity to aspartame probably involves a preexisting personal issue such as a nutritional inadequacy. I will explain both starting with the perception by some that aspartame is toxic.

    The fundamentals of toxicology (science of poisons) say that “everything is toxic.” This fundamental tenet of toxicology was established by Paracelsus in the 1500’s (Wikipedia: Paracelsus). But everything about toxicology is dose; the words ‘toxic’ or ‘poison’ mean nothing without a specific dose for the substance. The words 'toxic' or 'poison' are used when the doses required for effect are very low and thus exposure represents a hazard. But dose alone also separates a 'poison' from a food/drug. For example botulinum toxin (Botox), which is the perhaps the most toxic substance known (, is also used extensively in cosmetic procedures. Highly toxic cyanide is found in plant products we all consume; however, cyanide at those doses is readily detoxified by a cyanide-specific enzyme, rhodanese, In contrast ‘low-toxicity’ water drowns hundreds of people yearly, but water isn't considered 'toxic' or a 'poison'. This principle of toxicology is as established as the concepts that the world rotates about the sun and that the world is basically spherical; these are not up for debate.

    Again everything is toxic--that includes aspartame and all its three decomposition products, aspartate, phenylalanine, and methanol. Where the aspartame critics fail to understand and then mislead the reader is that dose is paramount to effect. That includes 99% of aspartame critics. Aspartame critics cannot now do this and never could! They believe there is no safe dose and this very outlandish claim is part of the reason why they cannot get any regulatory agency to even listen to their long-failed arguments. Realize, just this year--2013--the European Food Safety Authority again validated the safety of aspartame as have 90+ governmental regulatory agencies throughout the relevant world.

    Now concerning aspartame itself, here are facts people fail to understand. To reiterate the point that these substances pose little risk at the doses involved, note that formate and formaldehyde are [quoting another] “produced in the body during the endogenous demethylation of many compounds, including many foods [fruit juices] and drugs. For example, the demethylation of the caffeine found in one cup of coffee produces 30 mg of formaldehyde (Imbus, 1988). Formaldehyde is essential in one-carbon pool intermediary metabolism. The metabolite of formaldehyde, formic acid, is a substrate for purine nucleotide synthesis (Sheehan and Tully, 1983). It can be calculated that more than 50,000 mg [that's 50 g] of formaldehyde is produced and metabolized in an adult human body daily and that an adult human liver will metabolize 22 mg of formaldehyde per minute (Clary and Sullivan, 1999). Consequently, it is quite clear that the formaldehyde from aspartame provides a trivial contribution to total formaldehyde exposure and metabolism in the body” (p 18 in and refs from

    So the facts suggest clearly that any sensitivity issues with aspartame are PERSONAL issues; ALL can be explained by PERSONAL matters affecting metabolism of formaldehyde/formate like folate deficiency and corollary issues (both known and some likely yet unknown) like often genetic folate enzyme issues (polymorphisms, Wikipedia: methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase), B12 deficiency (often vegetarian-related), (genetic) methionine synthase enzyme issues, and/or (genetic) homocysteine accrual.

    Moreover, the folate system is not independent; folate, B12, and homocysteine are all functionally interrelated (Wikipedia: the metabolism of folic acid under Vitamin_B12). All contribute to not just the normal, natural recycling of otherwise essential formaldehyde and formate produced from methanol into methyl groups, but the availability of these methyl groups to regulate vital-to-life (DNA) itself. Ethanol (through its antagonist metabolite acetaldehyde) is also known inhibitor of these vital folate reactions. So in these borderline cases of aspartame sensitivity, alcohol consumption may be a prime factor explaining any increased sensitivity to aspartame as well. Realize ethanol, not methanol, is the cause of fetal alcohol syndrome, and ethanol is a documented factor in facilitating many cancer types, for example these scientific papers,, and this popular press article

    Critics suggest aspartame causes about every ill effect known to man claiming some 92+ symptoms for aspartame. Analysis of these, however, directly links all of these issues to the above described personal issues. Consider aspartame’s most widely reported issue, migraine headaches. In what I have written above I note that various folate, B12 and related issues better explain problems with aspartame. In this case that is even more likely because migraines have been linked directly to the MTHFR C677T folate polymorphism ( and Both papers report complete resolution of these migraines with added folate alone. These investigations revealed that more than the normal daily recommended amounts are needed (2-5 mg), but in these papers increased folate doses ALONE solved the migraine problem [and aspartame was not even involved]. That alone suggests a human sub-population that is even more deficient in folate for which resolution of their symptoms requires even more folate. This year’s Norwegian autism study,, only confirms the current importance of the deficiency issue, but those results may also reflect the fact that most of Europe still has not mandated folate fortification. But this isn't particularly surprising both in view of methanol's requirement for folate for metabolism, but also because folate uptake into brain has been linked to childhood autism,

    One of the aspartame critic's latest inventions is autism; they have spread this nonsense all over the web (Google ‘aspartame autism’ to see some of these claims). But a recent finding from Norway reported in JAMA found that autism incidence there is markedly reduced by folate, That discovery only further documents my argument.

    In summary each alleged symptom for aspartame can also be explained similarly by the issues discussed above and all are personal issues, not safety issues with aspartame itself.

    John E. Garst, Ph.D. (Medicinal Chemistry, Pharmacology, Toxicology, and Nutrition)
  5. Liberty
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    Liberty - March 17, 2013 8:51 pm
    Documentary on Aspartame:

    The 92 different health side effects associated with Aspartame:

    Aspartame studies:

    History of Aspartame:

    Full CDC investigation on Aspartame (text):

    I appreciate your input but much of what you state is factually incorrect. If you wish to continue consuming products that contain Aspartame that is your choice. I am simply trying to educate people in order to alert them to possible connections between their own health ailments and the very products they ingest. Please research the links I've provided and I hope you come to the conclusion that just because something has been in the food supply for decades doesn't make it safe or even viable in promoting health benefits. Propylene Glycol, Propyl and Methyl Parabens, Sodium Benzoate, EDTA, Red 40, Petroletum, Fragrance, etc are all linked and have been shown to cause health related conditions even to the ends of cancer...and they are in a vast majority of foods, cosmetics, toiletries and drinks, even baby products like Pedialyte...please spend time on this vital subject so you can cite sources before making accusation of my falsities in providing my own. Peace to you and you family.
  6. Jasper Beardly
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    Jasper Beardly - March 17, 2013 1:41 pm
    1. NaturalNews is not a credible source of information.

    2. They're proposing to add it to sweetened milk products, like chocolate milk or coffee creamers, not the the plain regular milk you buy in the gallon bottles.

    3. Aspartame would still be labeled, in the list of ingredients, just like diet soda or other diet products.

    4. To say that aspartame is "composed of aspartic acid, phenylalanine and wood alcohol" is just plain wrong.

    5. To say it releases methanol in the intestine is technically correct but grossly misleading. Millions of natural products release methanol during digestion. They, like aspartame, don't cause methanol toxicity.

    6. Aspartame has been on the market now for quite some time, and it doesn't cause health problems. Sugar? That causes obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay. Aspartame? Not so much.
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