The WHO questions the safety of aspartame
As more Americans shy away from sugar, artificial sweeteners have stepped in to fill the gap in people’s favorite recipes. More than 6,000 products are made with aspartame.
However, questions have been raised about aspartame’s safety after Portal reported that the World Health Organization’s Cancer Research Division will say the artificial sweetener is “possibly carcinogenic to humans”.
The WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has “evaluated the potential carcinogenic effects of aspartame” and will publish its findings on July 14, a representative for the organization told CBS MoneyWatch. They did not confirm the Portal report on the IARC conclusion on the safety of aspartame.
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IARC studies the carcinogenic potential of substances, while another WHO group oversees recommendations on how much of a product is safe for human consumption.
Aspartame was approved for use in food by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, with the agency concluding that the additive is “safe for the general population.” However, questions remain about the safety of aspartame. A 2021 research paper published in the journal Nutrients states that “results from its long-term use remain difficult to predict.”
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What is aspartame?
Aspartame is a compound called methyl ester. The artificial sweetener, which is 200 times stronger than regular granulated sugar, hit the market in 1981 as a low-calorie sweetener. Brand names include Nutrasweet, Equal and Sugar Twin. Since then, it has become an important ingredient in foods and beverages in North America, Asia and Europe, according to data from Nutrients magazine.
According to several studies, aspartame has no effect on blood sugar or insulin levels, making it a popular sugar substitute in foods for diabetics. Manufacturers have also used aspartame in low-sugar and no-sugar snacks, condiments, and beverages because research has found that excess sugar consumption is linked to various types of cancer.
Foods containing aspartame
Here are some common foods and drinks that contain aspartame:
- Sugar-free or diet sodas, including Diet Cokes
- Sugar-free chewing gum, e.g. B. Trident chewing gum
- diet drink mixes, including Crystal Light
- Low-sugar spices such as B. Sugar-free Log Cabin Syrup
- Sugar-free gelatin, such as Sugar-Free Jell-O
- Tabletop sweeteners are sold under brand names such as Equal and Nutrasweet
Neither Coca-Cola, the Diet Coke maker, nor other aspartame-containing food companies immediately responded to requests for comment.
However, the individual sweeteners used in low-sugar products vary, and companies sometimes change the ingredients. For the most accurate information, consumers should check each product’s ingredient list to determine whether or not it contains aspartame.
Is aspartame dangerous?
While several studies have found aspartame to be safe in moderation, some research has linked aspartame use to cancer. An observational study of more than 100,000 adults in France concluded that people who consumed larger amounts of artificial sweeteners, particularly aspartame, had a slightly increased risk of cancer.
Some studies have shown that aspartame can also cause headaches, seizures, and depression.
However, the FDA and the American Cancer Society still consider aspartame safe for human consumption.
Robert Rankin, president of the Calorie Control Council, an international association that advocates low-calorie and reduced-calorie foods and drinks, said IARC’s “misleading claims” lacked context.
“Consumers deserve facts, and the fact of the matter is that aspartame is safe and one of the most well-researched food ingredients. Therefore, the Calorie Control Council is deeply concerned by any unsubstantiated and misleading claims that contradict decades of scientific work and worldwide regulatory approvals,” he said in a statement to CBS News.
According to the FDA’s acceptable daily limit for artificial sweeteners, a 150-pound adult would need to consume more than 18 cans of sugar-free soda per day to experience any serious negative health consequences from aspartame.
This story has been updated to correct Smucker’s previous listing. Smucker’s said it doesn’t use aspartame in its low-sugar jams.