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Diet Coke sweetener Aspartame is ‘possible carcinogen’: leaked report

June 29, 2023

The artificial sweetener aspartame might soon be declared a “possible carcinogen,” or cancer-causing agent, according to a leaked report from the World Health Organization.

Aspartame is used in Diet Coke, Coke Zero, chewing gum, diet Snapple, breakfast cereals, ice cream and many other common food and drinks.

It’s also sold as NutraSweet, Equal and Sugar Twin.

The news about the possible move by the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, first reported on Reuters, met with quick resistance from the food industry.

“… [T]his leaked opinion contradicts decades of high-quality scientific evidence,” International Council of Beverages Associations executive director Kate Loatman said in a press release.

The potential health warning “could needlessly mislead consumers into consuming more sugar rather than choosing safe no- and low-sugar options — all on the basis of low-quality studies,” Loatman added.

“Consumers deserve facts, and the fact is aspartame is one of the most widely studied food ingredients and has repeatedly been determined to be safe by global scientific and regulatory authorities,” said Robert Rankin, president of the Calorie Control Council, in a statement.

“IARC is not a regulatory agency, ingredient expert, or food safety authority,” Rankin added, “[and] their sole focus is to find substances that could cause cancer, and they have classified things like aloe vera, low frequency magnetic fields, and pickled vegetables as possibly a causing cancer.”

The Post has also reached out to the Coca-Cola Company for comment.

The possible IARC listing could come as early as July 14 — the same day another group, the Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives, is set to announce its findings on aspartame.

Labeling an ingredient as cancer-causing requires years of rigorous testing and research.

Research based on lab animals may not always apply to humans, and it’s often difficult to establish that an ingredient or product is the direct cause of cancer or other health problems.

In 2015, the IARC stated that glyphosate — found in weedkillers like Roundup — is “probably carcinogenic,” though other bodies like the European Food Safety Authority contested that finding.

The IARC — which has also linked red meat, working overnight and cellphone use to cancer — might be on shaky ground if it declares aspartame a possible carcinogen.

According to the National Cancer Institute, “studies have not found evidence linking artificially sweetened beverage consumption with cancer in people,” despite years of studies.

However, in 2022, the NutriNet-Santé study of over 102,000 adults found that those who consumed artificial sweeteners were slightly more likely to develop cancer than those who didn’t.

Nonetheless, the Food and Drug Administration still considers aspartame safe: “Scientific evidence has continued to support the FDA’s conclusion that aspartame is safe for the general population.”

It’s been a rough year for artificial sweeteners: Splenda has recently come under scrutiny as sucralose is a possible source of toxic compounds that damage DNA.

In May, the WHO released guidelines warning the public not to use non-sugar sweeteners for weight loss, revealing that the products may actually do more harm than good.

And in February, sweetener erythritol was linked to higher rates of heart attacks and strokes, according to a study by Cleveland Clinic doctors.


Culled from New York Post

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