The artificial sweetener aspartame is a widely used artificial sweetener, and the World Health Organisation says it’s possibly “carcinogenic to humans”, but people shouldn’t worry that drinking carbonated drinks with aspartame will give them cancer.
The International Research Agency on Cancer announced the change in the classification on July 13. It has been reclassified to say that there is limited evidence of hepatocellular carcinoma, a type of liver cancer in humans.
Director of the Department of Nutrition and Food Safety at WHO, Dr Francesca Branca, said this means that there are potential carcinogenic effects “that need to be investigated by more and better studies.”
The Aspartame Dilemma
Professor of nutrition at the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health Barry Popkin told NBC News that “it’s a slight warning to people, but it’s not ‘do not consume.’
Health information manager at the charity Cancer Research UK Alice Davies told Sky News: “Something being classed as a carcinogen doesn’t tell you how much it could increase the risk of cancer. Sometimes there are things that might cause cancer in theory but in reality, the dose that you’re exposed to is too low to increase your risk.”
Consuming 49mg of aspartame per kg of body weight daily is still considered safe. This is a lot more than what normal people would consume in a day, as a can of diet soda usually contains 200mg of aspartame.
Which drinks have aspartame?
This sweetener is usually contained in Diet Coke, Coke Zero and Mountain Dew Zero Sugar. It is also commonly found in tabletop sweeteners, cereals and yoghurt.
Interim president and CEO of the American Beverage Association, Kevin Keane, said that the exoneration of aspartame is a good thing. Keane reiterated that with more than 40 years of science and this definitive conclusion from WHO, consumers can confidently move forward that aspartame is a safe choice, especially for people looking to reduce sugar and calories in their diets.
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