Parent's Get Artificial Sweeteners Banned in Schools in British Colombia

by John O'Connor of the Merritt News (B.C.)
(Posted by
Stephen Fox at )

Parents Say No to Artificial Sweeteners

Despite the findings by Health Canada that artificial sweeteners are safe, parents in B.C. have decided to play it safe and say no. The B.C. Ministry of Education has recently pulled all artificial sweeteners from being sold in B.C. primary and middle schools after consultations with parents of school children.

"I'd be very suspicious of Aspartame," said former Nicola Valley Teacher's Union leader, Ralph Poynting. "I wouldn't put it in there, why take the chance?"

The findings were issued in the September 2007 Guidelines for Food and Beverage Sales in B.C. Schools enacted by the B.C. ministries of education and health as part of a healthy schools initiative. The ministry came to its after consultations with parents, trustees, and dietitians.
The guidelines allow for artificial sweeteners in small amounts and as a condiment in secondary schools, but not in elementary or middle schools.

"The studies related to aspartame clarify enough concern as regards adverse health effects, that their use in schools should be banned," said neurosurgeon, Russell Blaylock, in an exclusive interview with the Merritt News.

"Careful studies, including the original studies by G.D. Searle company, demonstrate a significant cancer risk, especially for brain cancers, breast cancer, lymphomas and leukemias, such that would justify their being banned," he continued.

Blaylock considers artificial sweeteners and MSG as "excitotoxins" that play a critical role in neuro-degenerative diseases like Parkinson's Disease, Alzheimer's, and MS.
Health Canada has allowed the use of artificial sweeteners since 1981, when former U.S. Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, then CEO of the Searle Corporation, petitioned the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) for approval.
The passing came despite the fact that the FDA's Public Board of Inquiry, made up of scientists, voted unanimously against the approval of aspartame. On July 15, 1981, Dr. Arthur Hayes Jr, in one of his first acts as FDA Commissioner, overruled the Public Board of Inquiry and approved NutraSweet for dry products.

Health Canada followed suit and the artificial sweetener industry was born. Health Canada scientists have concluded that the reported findings of the European Ramazzini Foundation of Oncology, which found malignancies in rats tested with doses of aspartame, did not indicate a need to change the existing restrictions already outlined in the Food and Drug Regulations.
Health Canada concludes that the overwhelming body of evidence supports the safety of artificial sweeteners. Health Canada has requested the complete raw data from the Ramazzini Foundation and has been analyzing it since 2006. There has been no word yet on their analysis.

Some of the most common artificial sweeteners are: Aspartame, Sucralose, Splenda, Acesulfame-K (Acesfulfame Potassium), NutraSweet, as well as Saccharin. Aspartame is composed of L-Aspartly-L-phenylalanine methyl ester. They can be found in beverages, breath mints, chewing gum, prescription drugs, supplements and vitamins, and various other food products.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Symptoms attributed to Aspartame in complaints submitted to the FDA show headaches as the highest complaint followed by dizziness. Aspartame related complaints make up 80 per cent of total complaints to the FDA each year.
The FDA lists a total of 92 aspartame-related symptoms. The Aspartame Material Safety Data Sheet, a description label used by industry, states under toxicological information, that acute effects may be harmful by inhalation, ingestion, or skin absorption. Stevia is one herb, not approved by Health Canada, that some advocate as being a safer alternative to artificial sweeteners even for use by diabetics.


  1. Shane:
    I am very sorry to see that you have been taken in by the antiaspartame extremists and their false arguments. These comments about aspartame safety are simply untrue, regardless of how aspartame may or may not have been approved! Aspartame is perfectly safe used as directed in healthy people (see: Here are the real facts as science knows them today, as opposed to hearsay from twenty plus years ago.

    All the misguided concern about aspartame has been wrongfully created by a combination of purely scientific errors that started with the original Searle work, were perpetuated by a misguided aspartame internet conspiracy theory, and supported by two badly designed 2006 and 2007 and all other European studies. Early FDA evaluators of the original Searle work had tumor concerns, which the internet conspiracy theorists have kept this fable alive for twenty years. But those original results were simply false positives stemming from an error that nobody, even FDA, caught until I reported it this year. The Searle work and everything since (including both highly quoted Soffritti et al (Ramazzini studies) 2006 and 2007 rat studies (suggesting lymphoma and leukemia), and even the internet “” rat experiment used a simple, yet wrong experimental design, not to speak of a badly conducted protocol. First I’ll discuss the experimental design error. They used control rats (fed no aspartame) and treated rats (fed different, graded doses of aspartame to get a dose response). While normally this design is adequate, for aspartame this design is improperly balanced and invalid. Even a high school science fair student can recognize this fact once it is explained. Methanol from aspartame degradation is converted to formaldehyde and formic acid. Formaldehyde and formate have long been known to react with and at high doses like those in these experiments deplete a portion of the vitamin folate in exposed rats. That uncontrolled high dose folate degradation would be resolved, if folate were added to diets (daily and microgram sustenance supplements; that is why folate is needed in small doses daily). But, as these experiments have been performed, this degradation of folate only happens in the treated animals, because only they get the aspartame source of the methanol. The consequence is that only the rats receiving the aspartame will show a dose-dependent (high dose, the more the deficiency) increase, not in tumors arising from aspartame, but from folate deficiency induced tumors. Proper design would involve feeding folate supplements to both control and treated animals; it would best have used three groups, control rats, aspartame treated rats, and folate supplemented, aspartame treated rats. This design would not have given rise to tumors, because the rats would not have been depleted of folate. FYI, folate deficiency causes exactly those tumor types reported in the 2006 and 2007 lifetime exposure experiments and literally dozens upon dozens of different cancers. Second, I’ll mention their experimental errors; their use of Sprague-Dawley rats, which are known to become folate deficient as they age, is the most serious in all their two to three year studies. Because of its technical nature I cannot establish to you in this writing that their rats were deficient in folate even before beginning their experiment. However, various factors suggest that this is highly likely. The other European studies are all invalid, but for a different reason. They all failed to consider the serious impact of homocysteine, a substance which increases in the absence of folate. This substance explains all their errant work. (Information detailing the fatal error in all rat aspartame research is new this year. It was presented in March, 2008 at the national Society of Toxicology meeting in Seattle and in April, 2008 at the Agriculture & Food Chemistry section of the national American Chemical Society meeting in New Orleans).

    Second, all the matter above deals with the rat experimental studies, but there is another totally separate issue, human safety. That issue only exists because of the false claims that aspartame causes problems including tumors in humans stemming from the badly done rat work. In a corollary of the third line above, the fact of the matter is that many people in this country are not healthy; they are intrinsically susceptible to this natural cause of tumors that internet conspirators have wrongly attributed to aspartame. Many people, particularly women, are deficient in this vitamin (folate) and some are seriously deficient in it. Folate was added to grain products to quell a serious incidence of birth defects in children of deficient mothers. That worked to a large extent. But the “health weight” trend not to eat sweet rolls, doughnuts and other grain products that have been fortified with folate since 1998 only worsens the underlying problem. Still others have biochemical issues with their folate processing enzymes (called polymorphisms) that raise the requirement for folate and only raise their susceptibility to folate deficiency. Widespread folate deficiency, not aspartame, is the real problem causing much of the tumors and cancers epidemic in America today. Folate is also a major factor in breast cancer too, see FYI: this paper suggests that folate sufficiency is more important at breast cancer prevention than the genetic risk factor BRCA. And alcohol abuse by women is a major factor in increased folate deficiency and contributes greatly to the incidence of breast cancer today. The concentrations of alcohols (methanol from aspartame or ethanol from low use) are just insufficient to cause any problem in people without other underlying folate issues.

    Some might argue, well we should just avoid any risk factor such as aspartame. But they just don’t understand that methanol and its oxidation products formaldehyde and formate are required for the normal production of methyl groups by the folate biochemical system and many other processes. It is this methylation of DNA, as one example, that actually functions to prevent cancer by preventing weak and breakable DNA. So at least for methanol this argument is fallacious. For ethanol, however, it may be a different matter.

    There have recently been calls for a second round of grain product fortification to again help to overcome these folate deficiency problems. But the only real solution to the many folate deficiency linked tumors and birth defects, etc. is use of folate supplements. Folate is made not by us, but by bacteria in our gut; given even a folate precursor rich diet (“healthy living”), we simply cannot make sufficient folate to prevent the widespread occurrence of disease associated with folate deficiency. Then, many dietary substances including antibiotics, abusive levels of ethanol, and many commonly used pharmaceuticals (antiepileptic and others) adversely affect either folate or the bugs that generate the folate; they only make us more deficient. This is why continuous consumption of folate supplements is essential.

    John E. Garst, Ph.D. (Medicinal Chemistry, Pharmacology, Toxicology, and Nutrition)
    (FYI, I have absolutely no financial or biasing connection with the aspartame, the soft drink or their related industries. However, I am just tired of the antiaspartame extremists, who have no understanding of the sciences of pharmacology and toxicology, trying to pass judgment and create widely believed but false hearsay on something that they know nothing about.)

  2. Dr. Garst, thank you so much for stopping by. I so apprecoate your input and knowledge.

    Let's get something straight, I am not an extremist and I hope you are not lumping me into the group you speak of in your post script. Do you believe the British Colombia parents are extremists? Obviously I am not a scientist and I do not have the expertise that you do. Still, I have a brain and can use it to gain an understanding of aspartame's affect on our population.

    I have posted frequently about folic deficiencies contributing to disease. Yet tell me this, what is your answer to those of us who have some sort of genetic nutritional or mitochondrial defect which leaves us open to sensitivity to aspartame?

    What type of legislation have you in mind to protect people? How do we help inform the public?

    You see in my mind, I only know that aspartame is very harmful to me even though I never knew any harm could possibly come to me from ingesting something supposedly safe for all except those allergic to it.

    With my sincerest respect, what can be done to protect the public. Do you not agree that at least some warning should be placed for the public to view?

    What are you doing behind the scenes to protect the public? Can people help? We are on the same page. I do not think you would be so passionate about folate without a desire to help society as a whole.

  3. Shane:

    Thanks for writing back. Sorry I didn’t write back earlier; I just didn’t know of your post.

    Let me make it clear from the beginning, I really don’t care whether you or any person uses aspartame or not. If it gives you headaches, don’t use it; no one has a gun to your head. However, banning it or removing it from the market is extreme and strongly unjustified. Given your post, while you may not think yourself an antiaspartame extremist, if you believe the stuff Blaylock and others promote and you yourself repeat it online, you are still drawn into their extremist internet conspiracy theory and will be so labeled. But the reality is that every argument made against aspartame is simply untrue, and as I mentioned mostly borne of a now thirty year old, perpetuated fallacy I disproved last year and in my first comments. Critics simply can’t come up with viable new data to the contrary, excepting of course the Ramazzini Foundation stuff, which I demonstrate is loaded with both experimental design and experimental procedure errors of the worst kind. You need to listen to the real experts on this subject. Unfortunately, you are not privy to the real hardball that exposes these antiaspartame critics falsehoods amongst the 99% of experts who believe aspartame is perfectly safe used as directed (see:

    You mention that “the FDA lists a total of 92 aspartame-related symptoms.” Other websites provide claims of 90+ diseases caused by aspartame. Let’s take a serious look at these. One of them is leukemia (Ramazzini). Go to PubMed (the US national library of science primary journal abstracting service: and, for example, type “folate deficiency,leukemia” (without the quotes) in the search line. The result is over 140 references, including one paper claiming deficiency of folate-B12 in humans resembles leukemia, Do the same with “aspartame,leukemia” to find 6 reports (includes the Ramazzini work) and others casting doubt on their work and these do not even give the strong arguments unrecognized before my work was presented. Given what I report and the many reports by unbiased scientists about their publications found in this folate deficiency-leukemia connection, which do you believe? Next repeat this test for all the other 90+ diseases, and either folate deficiency or homocysteine (which is known to increase from a folate deficiency) and you quickly have very few “diseases” left!

    You seem to believe that if we abandon aspartame all will be okay. That is ludicrous on two counts. First, there are no scientific papers that show any harm from aspartame in over thirty years of work! I cannot emphasize this enough. That alone specifically makes your Ralph Poynting comment "I'd be very suspicious of Aspartame" a very uneducated statement. It is all the more so coming from any teacher, past or present, or any organization dealing with education and health. Second, the small amounts of methanol in aspartame from soft drinks or example is no more a problem than the similar amounts of methanol in apple or tomato juice or the ethanol in wine or other drinks (see this excellent review, Both alcohols from whatever the source are continuously depleting small amounts of folate along with many OTC and prescription (particularly antiepileptic) drugs. But this depletion (or loss) is not the only issue concerning folate (or any other vitamin). Adequacy is the major issue. We simply cannot get enough folate and folate precursor through even an enhanced diet rich in "foliage" precursors. Also note that the folate in supplements is better absorbed, see These factors are why folate (and B12) supplements are required. Other factors like age and gender and body size also play a role in the effective amounts of folate needed, see (age) and (gender and body size)

    As to your question about public protection, the only issue here is folate (and perhaps B12) intake. And physicians and nutritionists have been urging the public to take supplements for decades. Putting a label on aspartame even to recommend folate is redundant and irrelevant given the many other causes of folate inadequacy and sources of folate loss. Should we label all methanol (and ethanol) containing juices and alcoholic drinks to urge people to take a vitamin, we already urge them to take? In fairness the juice drinks have some folate precursors and even folate to compensate for their loss via mostly methanol, however many people (for whatever reason) avoid taking folate supplements. Another recent adverse trend is people avoiding donuts and many other grain products fortified with folate, because of their concern over caloric intake. This concern at least for some, actually can worsen their health by restricting folate intake.

    If you have one of the, to use your term, “genetic nutritional” issues, specifically the folate polymorphisms--you simply need more folate than others to compensate. Type “folate polymorphisms” without the quotes into the above PubMed link search line for much more information. A clear argument can be made (to complex for this website) that migraine headaches, for example, follow directly from a preexisting folate polymorphism. Here is one such preliminary link, Consequently, it is likely that any aspartame associated headache involves people with either frank insufficient folate or with one of these polymorphisms that contribute to insufficient folate.

    As to your question what might be done to protect the public, the simple answer is obvious. It does not involve aspartame consumption, but more education and more awareness of the importance of folate (and B12) in nutrition and health, for example see Perhaps there should be screening for the various folate polymorphisms, but that is a whole new issue beyond the realm of either your or my writing.

    John E. Garst, Ph.D. (Medicinal Chemistry, Pharmacology, Toxicology, and Nutrition)

  4. Dr. Garst, Thanks so much for this information. It is more a matter of what happened to me, much more than just a headache, which lead me to research aspartame. I am wracking my brain and I just cannot remember when I stopped taking a folate supplement last year when I had my "incident". I had been on a folate supplement for 13 years and stopped taking it after I stopped nursing my last daughter last year. I am almost positive that I stopped taking the supplement before I basically turned into a practical comatose person with her eyes open. I was so scared and it flipped me out that I started feeling better after I stopped ingesting aspartame.

    I need to run my kids to school but I will finish this when I get back. Thanks for your time and info. I am trying to get all info I can out to the public so they can look at all sides.

  5. Shane:

    I don't know your condition nor really much to say, but consider these two points. First, in some animals the mother's folate is largely given to her offspring and is pretty much divided by the number of offspring delivered. This leads to a substantial decline in the mother's folate, though diet does restore much of that over time.

    Second, for yourself type "your condition,folate", "your condition,folate deficiency" or "your condition,homocysteine" (all without the quotes and substituting your condition) into PubMed ( and see what turns up. Only you and your doctor can address your issue, but maybe this will give you both a place to start.

    John E. Garst, Ph.D. (Medicinal Chemistry, Pharmacology, Toxicology, and Nutrition)

  6. Dr. Garst, Thanks very much, once again, for this info. Please stay in touch.

  7. You're KILLIN me Garst. You're absolutely killing me. OK, JE Garst has publications on PubMed, and several at the ACS website as well. I believe he exists and he's a chemistry nerd. That's a start. But part of your supposed reason for posting the same response ALL over the interwebz is that you're tired of people just believing any old site the fall over when it comes to science. I AGREE. And I get it, correlation of being on ships and people having scurvy doesn't mean that the act of being on ships is what caused the scurvy - the vitamin deficiency did it. You make sense. But since all I can find on you is your responses on blogs on this topic and your own link to your response to a House Bill or whatever, I think it's fair that I ask where the reputable source is for what your'e talking about. Not just a link to your response sounding logical - I'm not a toxicologist so I have to make the assumption that another guy out there would be able to dazzle me with seemingly equal logic with other facts I didn't know.

    I get it that your papers are much older, you're not at a university anymore (or so some other website you KNOW how much time I have wasted here...), ok fine, but if you presented at 2 conferences in 2008, where are the publications, or at least point us to the abstract of your presentations as listed on the ACS or websites (I can't find the info that actually lists the posters/presenters/etc at these conferences).

    I know that presenting a viable reason that aspartame might not have been responsible for all those tumors that seemed so damning doesn't explicitly prove that folate deficiency did it, but I think the many, many sites you've posted at (where you're annoyed that anyone will believe anything that some dude on the internet writes) all deserve to be shown that a respected and official organization backs your explanation of flawed design in aspartame studies. Lead by example and let us be discerning consumers of information instead of expecting us to take YOUR word but not that other dude's, because it's different with you since you're right.

    Sorry for the repetition and hapazard quality. It's 4am and I swear all I wanted to do was to be able to send an educated response to my dad to let him know that I didn't think diet coke was going to make me sprout 10 tumors. I'm posting this on a couple of places where you posted most recently...


  8. Here's the problem for me guys, why doesn't aspartame affect everyone negatively if it is the aspartame alone?

  9. where is this Garst guy? come back and post links to reputable sources that have published your new theories or at least accepted them for a conference and listed the TITLE and your name even... even that would be enough to convince me that you're not some dude who just grabbed a chemist's name off the internet...

    and shane, if aspartame is bad for you, i think the idea is people vary a LOT. it's not like injecting yourself with a toxin that is going to 100% do x then y then z in your body. if aspartame is carcinogenic then that doesn't mean everyone will get cancer, just like many smokers don't get cancer. it depends on your physiology, how much of a drug you take in, when you take it in (what your state is physiologically when you take it in), how your body deals with it... some people will be more susceptible, some environmental factors might cause people to become more susceptible. and even 2 cloned people in the exact same environment have different moment to moment stuff going on in their bodies, and it's just a probability game. you're causing damage or interfering with processes of the body's cells, and if the right set of processes are disrupted all in the same cell (and your cells actually have a lot of checks and balances to prevent it), then the cell loses its brakes on growth and division, and loses its regulation on other things it does (it might make hormones constantly, for example), and might lose its extracellular signalling regulation (it might not attach to things as well, might be loose and metastasize, etc).

    anyway, there are a lot of things that have to go wrong, and a lot of paths to go down during the process of having them all go wrong, and people's bodies process and store drugs differently, and deal with damage/interference they cause differently as well. hence a variable response to a drug in people and the difficulties faced when trying to decide if a certain drug causes cancers.

    hope that made a little sense at least...

  10. 7-15 Anonymous - it makes a lot of sense. Please forgive me as I am not a scientist as clearly you are; or at least you have much more expertise in this area than I do. So your position is that folic acid supplements would not have any impact on protecting our cellular structure?

  11. i am most definitely not an expert in toxicology or cancer research. i'm a grad student in a medical field. just to get that out of the way.

    my personal 'position' after all the reading i have done about aspartame is that who knows. great conclusion, yes?

    first off you've seen garst's (who may or may not really be who he claims) side. here is refutation by some people that i also can't prove are who they claim.
    as with garst, these are indeed real people who write real books/papers, but who knows if the text seen here actually came from them or was just posted under the name.

    folic acid is important, so no i wouldn't say that supplements IF you're deficient wouldn't be a good thing. vitamin deficiencies can indeed cause loads of symptoms and illnesses. if the breakdown products of aspartame really do directly bind and remove a vitamin from the body then yes, you could experience a syndrome from aspartame that was only indirectly caused by aspartame. the question is whether people who get a lot of aspartame really are folate deficient. garst implies it's a huge problem, the refuters say it's not. you'd need to measure folate in a load of people and decide if the aspartamefolk have significantly lower levels, which could imply the aspartame is reducing the levels. so taking vitamins is definitely not going to hurt you, and if you actually are deficient in something it may help. whether or not aspartame itself causes illness directly or indirectly though, i don't know, and i wouldn't make life decisions based on any of these people's posts without finding a published scientific source where those people have said what they're saying here - at least there is probably some peer review involved that way.

    in the end, if aspartame does cause any problems we're obviously having a hard time establishing the link for sure. there is bias and lobbying and so on everywhere, but it takes approx 10billion as i remember from some class to get a drug from idea to the market, and that kind of money being invested, to say nothing of time, didn't stop the fda from pulling celebrex/vioxx/phenphen/whateverelse off the market when there was a clear enough link for their science and law departments. even if garst is dead wrong and the giant european rat studies stand, both the fda and its european equivalent reviewed those studies and did not find them significant enough to pull the drug. and it's not because they won't pull such a ubiquitous item off the market because saccharine had a moratorium or something for a period while they sorted out cancer claims with it (it was kept on after they established that the studies, using rats, were causing cancer by a mechanism that would not occur in humans due to the chemical composition of people vs rat pee, as i remember). so it's not like they don't look at the studies, and it's not like they're unwilling to react to them. they have a lot of scientists working for them and on some statistical level, it seemed fair to them to say that no one had PROVED a statistically significant link of causation between aspartame and loads of cancers, etc.

    ... cut...

  12. ---next---

    that said, the fda saying something is safe of course doesn't mean it is (otherwise nothing would ever get pulled from the market). but it does mean that some smart people's best opinion is that it's probably ok. everyone is different, science is complicated to state the obvious, and science is also always changing. if aspartame makes you feel like crap, and halting intake helped, keep it up. your individual metabolism and liver function and all that jazz may make you more susceptible to phenylalanine, aspartic acid, methanol, formaldehyde, or whatever other breakdown products or intermediates there are. as toxicologists will point out, all 4 of those are in your body anyway and are useful in their proper place and amount - EVERYTHING is a toxin, given the right dosage and the location of that dosage. it makes a difference what you ingest, how you ingest it, and what form it's in as that will affect where it will break down and how.

    anyway, personally i use splenda in coffee, and i drink diet drinks so i get aspartame and acesulfame K from those. should i drink gallons? no probably not. am i super worried myself? no not too much, because most of the better statistically significant results i've seen for carcinogenic effects were at the 24pack a day from birth kinda level considering my body weight... as with anyone, even the fda sort of when you think about it, it's just my best educated guess as to whether it's an acceptable risk (just as drinking regular soft drinks and having blood sugar through the roof half the day might be someone else's calculated risk).

    sorry for the wordiness. enjoy wading through all that :)

  13. Anonymous- thanks so much for your time and information. You raise many interesting possible answers to questions I have had.

    I am going back to read your post again. Quite an interesting thread we have here. Perhaps Dr.Garst will check back in.

  14. PS - I always enjoy wading through wordiness.


"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." - Margaret Mead