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We’re all drinking less milk – about 30 percent less since 1975 – and the dairy industry is hoping to change that trend by adding a new ingredient: Aspartame. That's right, “diet milk.”
According to the Huffington Post, two dairy industry groups requested permission to do this back in 2009, but the Food and Drug Administration only recently acknowledged the request and asked for data related to artificial sweeteners, indicating that it might actually happen.
While aspartame and other artificial sweeteners are commonly found in yogurt, soda and so many other foods, the FDA only allows products to be labeled “milk” if they contain “nutritive sweeteners” – A.K.A. sweeteners with calories, like sugar or corn syrup. So even if there’s chocolate or strawberry flavoring in there, it’s still milk.
Milk is high in sugar (1 cup of fat-free milk contains about 12 grams), which is why some calorie-conscious people avoid it. The dairy lobby says that this move will help encourage those folks to start drinking more of the white stuff, as well as milk’s original target market: kids. Could this move lead to little cartons of low-cal milk in lunchrooms across the country?
While cutting milk’s calories may seem like a move to fight childhood obesity, recent research has shown that artificial ingredients like Aspartame can alter brain chemistry, making us crave sugary (and salty and fatty) foods even more, which may lead to weight gain and diabetes. Once you get used to drinking artifically sweetened milk, regular old milk might taste weird...like it needs some sugar.
If the FDA decides to approve diet milk we just hope those cartons are clearly labeled. So we can reach for the all-natural organic stuff.