April 17, 2024 12:36 pm
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WHO Warns: Artificial Soda Sweeteners like Aspartame May Be Linked to Cancer

The World Health Organization (WHO) has classified the artificial sweetener aspartame as “possibly carcinogenic to humans.” The WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) conducted its first-ever evaluation of the carcinogenicity of aspartame, placing it in category Group 2B, which is reserved for substances with limited evidence of being carcinogenic. However, the acceptable daily intake level of aspartame remains unchanged. The WHO’s nutrition and food safety director, Francesco Branca, emphasized that the organization is not advising companies to withdraw products or consumers to stop consuming altogether, but rather, urging moderation. Aspartame is commonly used in soft drinks, diet drinks, chewing gum, ice cream, yogurt, breakfast cereals, and other food and beverage products.

The WHO’s Evaluation and Classification

  1. The WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified aspartame as “possibly carcinogenic to humans” based on limited evidence.
  2. Aspartame was placed in category Group 2B, which is used for substances with limited evidence of being carcinogenic.
  3. The limited evidence specifically concerned hepatocellular carcinoma, a type of liver cancer, as well as cancer in experimental animals.
  4. Aloe vera extracts and caffeic acid found in tea and coffee are also in the same category as aspartame.
  5. However, the IARC clarifies that the risk of cancer associated with aspartame falls within the Group 2B category and should not cause general public concern.

The Acceptable Daily Intake Level

  1. The Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA), formed by the WHO and the Food and Agriculture Organization, concluded that there is no reason to change the acceptable daily intake (ADI) of aspartame.
  2. The ADI of aspartame, established in 1981, is set at zero to 40 milligrammes per kilogramme of body weight.
  3. An adult weighing 70 kg would need to consume more than nine to 14 cans of sugar-free soft drink per day to exceed the ADI of aspartame.
  4. The concerns about aspartame primarily apply to high consumers and not occasional consumers.

Aspartame and its Uses

Aspartame is an artificial chemical sweetener that emerged in the 1980s. It is widely used in various food and beverage products, including:

  1. Soft drinks and diet drinks
  2. Chewing gum
  3. Gelatin
  4. Ice cream
  5. Dairy products, such as yogurt
  6. Breakfast cereals
  7. Toothpaste
  8. Cough drops
  9. Chewable vitamins

Consumer Reactions

Camille Dorioz, campaign manager at the consumer organization Foodwatch: “A possibly carcinogenic sweetener has no place in our food and drink.”

Alternative Recommendations

Francesco Branca, the WHO’s nutrition and food safety director, suggests that consumers consider drinking water instead and limit the consumption of sweetened products altogether. He advises choosing alternatives that do not contain free sugars or sweeteners.

Conclusion

The WHO’s classification of aspartame as “possibly carcinogenic to humans” raises concerns about its use but emphasizes the importance of moderation and offers alternatives such as drinking water and opting for products without sweeteners. The WHO urges further research and clarification on the impact of aspartame on health.

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