The Meal Matters Most

What Makes Healthy Food Healthy: From a Stress Perspective

Can Milk be sweetened with Aspartame and still be called Milk?

Eric Miller/AP taken from NPR  news Story "Can milk be sweetened with Aspartame and still be called Milk?"

Eric Miller/AP taken from NPR news Story “Can milk be sweetened with Aspartame and still be called Milk?”

If someone thinks they are making a healthy lunch by reducing calories, fat and sugar, which is not true (healthy is about trading up calories, not just taking out calories). What kind of decisions or allowances will that mistaken oversimplified logic, if we allow it to persist, put in the mouths of our children?

Recently an article ran about milk companies wanting to be able to add sweetener to their  “low fat and low calorie” milk to make it more appealling and marketable. The caveat is that they want to do this without having to tell anyone about this addition of sweetener, so aspartame-sweetened milk will just be called “milk” and hence qualify for low fat low sugar low calorie “healthy” dairy. As we know from Dr. David Katz, this  is exactly the kind of tricky marketing and misinterpretation of this oversimplified message we must be wary of:

But much worse is sure to follow. If fructose is toxic, then we are inviting soft drink makers to switch over to pure glucose. I envision a whole new array of soft drinks, with “No Fructose!” banner ads on the front — intensively sweetened with glucose. And maybe, under the “fructose free” halo, we will feel justified drinking twice as much as before.

If this sounds far-fetched, it should not. Recall that the principle effect of the low-fat diet era was not a reduction in fat intake, but an increase in total calorie intake from such foods as SnackWell’s cookies. If it said “low-fat,” we interpreted that to mean: license to eat in huge quantities. My worries about glucose-sweetened soft drinks may run to morbid fantasy, but it’s a nightmare well grounded in our recent dietary history.

When we villify words like “fat” and “calories” we run the very dangerous risk of qualifying chemically enhanced foods as healthy.  This allows companies to make cheap and tasty products and hide the additives with no (and potentially negative) nutritional value.  From a health perspective there is very little evidence that taking the fat out of milk creates a “healthier” milk.  As research from a recent article on the TIME HealthLand by By  entitled  “Skim Milk May Not Lower Obesity” tells us:

“Our original hypothesis was that children who drank high-fat milk, either whole milk or 2% would be heavier because they were consuming more saturated fat calories. We were really surprised when we looked at the data and it was very clear that within every ethnicity and every socioeconomic strata, that it was actually the opposite, that children who drank skim milk and 1% were heavier than those who drank 2% and whole,” says DeBoer, who is also the chair-elect for the AAP Committee on Nutrition.”

A fundamental question about milk would be when and why did milk from healthy cows become bad?  Milk is the food that Gregory Cochran describes in his book “The Hundred Year Explosion” that played a critical role in our survival and our evolution. So when did milk, in it’s natural full-fat state, become “bad” for children? And a low calorie, low sugar, low fat evermoreso adulterated version of it, become healthy?

As for what I think of these companies wanting to sneak in aspartame to sweeten milk to improve the taste of milk to cushion their bottom lines?  I say using children as an experimental model to test if daily milk with aspartame may be ok, or may not be ok, doesn’t seem ok, or even necessary to me since (quality) fats or (quality) calories are not bad for growing children. Real whole foods with fats, sugars and appropriate calories in their natural form seems like a better experiment, and more scientifically sound, to prevent the health problems we are trying to address. And for growing healthy minds and bodies of our children.

Aspartame Studies further reading

updated 8/13/13:

  • Artificial sweeteners produce the counterintuitive effect of inducing metabolic derangements. Swithers SE. Trends Endocrinol Metab. 2013 Jul 3. doi:pii: S1043-2760(13)00087-8. 10.1016/j.tem.2013.05.005. LINK
  • Aspartame administered in feed, beginning prenatally through life span, induces cancers of the liver and lung in male Swiss mice. Soffritti M, Belpoggi F, Manservigi M, Tibaldi E, Lauriola M, Falcioni L, Bua L. Am J Ind Med. 2010 Dec;53(12):1197-206. doi: 10.1002/ajim.20896. LINK
  • Gender dimorphism in aspartame-induced impairment of spatial cognition and insulin sensitivity. Collison KS, Makhoul NJ, Zaidi MZ, Saleh SM, Andres B, Inglis A, Al-Rabiah R, Al-Mohanna FA. PLoS One. 2012;7(4):e31570. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0031570. Epub 2012 Apr 3. LINK
  • Interactive effects of neonatal exposure to monosodium glutamate and aspartame on glucose homeostasis.Collison KS, Makhoul NJ, Zaidi MZ, Al-Rabiah R, Inglis A, Andres BL, Ubungen R, Shoukri M, Al-Mohanna FA.Nutr Metab (Lond). 2012 Jun 14;9(1):58. doi: 10.1186/1743-7075-9-58.
  • Prediabetic changes in gene expression induced by aspartame and monosodium glutamate in Trans fat-fed C57Bl/6 J mice. Collison KS, Makhoul NJ, Zaidi MZ, Inglis A, Andres BL, Ubungen R, Saleh S, Al-Mohanna FA.Nutr Metab (Lond). 2013 Jun 19;10(1):44. LINK
  • Effects of aspartame metabolites on astrocytes and neurons. Rycerz K, Jaworska-Adamu JE. Folia Neuropathol. 2013;51(1):10-7. LINK
  • Studies on the effects of aspartame on memory and oxidative stress in brain of mice. Abdel-Salam OM, Salem NA, El-Shamarka ME, Hussein JS, Ahmed NA, El-Nagar ME. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2012 Dec;16(15):2092-101. CONCLUSIONS: These findings suggest impaired memory performance and increased brain oxidative stress by repeated aspartame administration. The impaired memory performance is likely to involve increased oxidative stress as well as decreased brain glucose availability
  • Direct and indirect cellular effects of aspartame on the brain. P Humphries, E Pretorius and H Naude. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2008) 62, 451–462. LINK
  • Altered processing of sweet taste in the brain of diet soda drinkers. Green E, Murphy C. Physiol Behav. 2012 Nov 5;107(4):560-7. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2012.05.006. Epub 2012 May 11. LINK
  • Drinking skim milk may not lower child obesity risk. Posted on: 4:01 pm, March 20, 2013, by Web Staff.
  • Skim Milk may Not Lower Obesity by Alexandra Sifferlin March 19, 2013

Author: Lori Hogenkamp

Lori's passion is for food, the brain, science and stress shifting perspectives .

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