June 30, 2023: As more people turn away from sugar, artificial sweeteners like aspartame have gained popularity, with over 6,000 products containing this sweetener. However, recent reports suggest that the safety of aspartame is being questioned. The World Health Organization (WHO) cancer research arm is set to declare aspartame as “possibly carcinogenic to humans.” The WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has been assessing the potential carcinogenic effects of aspartame and will release its findings on July 14. While the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved aspartame for general use, concerns about its long-term safety persist.
Understanding Aspartame: Aspartame is a compound known as methyl ester and is an artificial sweetener that entered the market in 1981 as a low-calorie alternative to sugar. It is approximately 200 times sweeter than regular sugar and is used in various food and beverage products across North America, Asia, and Europe.
Safety Concerns and Health Risks: Several studies have indicated that aspartame does not affect blood sugar or insulin levels, making it a popular choice for people with diabetes. Manufacturers have incorporated aspartame into reduced-sugar and sugar-free snacks, condiments, and beverages due to research linking excessive sugar consumption to various cancers.
However, some studies have raised concerns about the potential health risks of aspartame. One observational study in France found a slightly elevated cancer risk among individuals who consumed more significant amounts of artificial sweeteners, including aspartame. Additionally, studies have suggested a possible connection between aspartame consumption and headaches, seizures, and depression.
Regulatory Approvals and Expert Opinions: The FDA and the American Cancer Society consider aspartame safe for human consumption. The Calorie Control Council, an association representing the low- and reduced-calorie food and beverage industry, emphasizes that aspartame has been extensively studied and approved globally.
To ensure safety, the FDA has set an acceptable daily limit for artificial sweeteners, including aspartame. According to their guidelines, adults weighing 150 pounds must consume more than 18 cans of zero-sugar soda daily to experience severe adverse health consequences from aspartame.
Products Containing Aspartame: Various foods and beverages contain aspartame, including zero-sugar or diet sodas like Diet Coke, sugar-free gums such as Trident, diet drink mixes like Crystal Light, reduced-sugar condiments such as Log Cabin Sugar-Free Syrup, sugar-free gelatin like Sugar-free Jell-O, and tabletop sweeteners sold under brand names like Equal and Nutrasweet.
Conclusion: The safety of aspartame is under scrutiny, with the WHO’s IARC set to declare it as “possibly carcinogenic to humans.” While regulatory bodies like the FDA have approved aspartame, concerns about its long-term effects remain. It is essential for consumers to be aware of the presence of aspartame in various products and to check ingredient lists for accurate information. The final verdict on aspartame’s safety will come with releasing the WHO’s findings on July 14.