A supermarket can of Diet Coke, an artificial sweetener widely used in thousands of products including diet fizzy drinks, ice cream and chewing gum, has been listed as a possible cancer risk to humans, according to reports.

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The World Health Organization on Thursday listed the soda sweetener aspartame as a possible carcinogen, but said it was safe for people to consume within recommended daily limits.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the World Health Organization, has found a possible link between aspartame and a type of liver cancer called hepatocellular carcinoma after reviewing three large human studies of artificially sweetened beverages conducted in the United States and Europe. There is a connection.

Aspartame is used as a sugar substitute in Diet Coke, Pepsi Zero Sugar and other diet sodas, as well as in some chewing gum and various Snapple drinks. Artificially sweetened beverages have historically been the largest source of exposure to aspartame, according to The Lancet Oncology.

Dr. Mary Schubauer-Berigan, a senior IARC official, stressed that the classification of aspartame as a probable carcinogen was based on limited evidence. Schubauer-Berrigan noted that the three studies could have been affected by chance, bias or other flaws. More research is needed to determine whether consuming artificial sweeteners actually causes cancer, she said.

“This really shouldn’t be taken as a direct statement that there is a known risk of cancer from consuming aspartame,” Schubauer-Berrigan told reporters Wednesday at a news conference before the findings were released to the public. .”

“We think this is really more of a call for the research community to better clarify and understand the carcinogenic harms that may or may not be posed by consuming aspartame,” Schubauer-Berrigan said.

A spokesman for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Thursday that the agency disagrees with the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s conclusion that aspartame is likely carcinogenic to humans. The FDA reviewed the same evidence as IARC in 2021 and found significant flaws in the study, the spokesperson said.

“Aspartame is one of the most studied food additives in the human food supply,” the spokesperson said. “When aspartame is used under approved conditions, FDA scientists have no safety concerns.”

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How much is too much?

The current evidence supporting a link between aspartame and cancer in humans is not convincing, the Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives said on Thursday. JECFA is an international group of scientists from the World Health Organization and the United Nations that makes recommendations on the amount of products people can safely eat.

JECFA said on Thursday that consuming aspartame is safe if a person consumes no more than 40 milligrams of the sweetener per kilogram of body weight per day for a lifetime. The daily limit for aspartame recommended by the FDA is slightly higher at 50 mg per kilogram of body weight.

According to Dr Francesco Branca, head of the World Health Organization’s Center for Nutrition and Health, a 70kg or 154lb adult would have to drink more than nine to 14 cans of aspartame-containing soda a day, such as Diet Coke, to exceed the limit, and Possible health risks. The Food Safety Authority at a news conference on Wednesday.

People who occasionally drink a can of soda or occasionally chew gum containing aspartame need not worry about health risks, Branca said. The World Health Organization is only advising people to consume aspartame in moderation when consuming foods or drinks containing aspartame, he said.

Branca warns that children who drink aspartame-fortified soda may exceed their daily limit by drinking as little as three cans. Although more research is needed on lifelong exposure to aspartame, children who start consuming aspartame early may face higher health risks later in life, he said.

“In some households there may be no water on the table but a large pitcher of sparkling drink with sweeteners. That’s not a good practice,” he said.

Blanca said the World Health Organization is not asking companies to withdraw products containing aspartame. But he said the food industry should consider changing ingredients and producing products that don’t use sweeteners.

The American Beverage Association on Thursday claimed the World Health Organization’s findings were correct, saying aspartame is a safe choice for people looking to cut sugar and calories from their diets.

Although aspartame may reduce the calorie content of some beverages, the World Health Organization end of may Sugar substitutes do not help children or adults lose weight in the long run.

Dr. William Dahout, chief scientific officer of the American Cancer Society, said consumers must make decisions based on their individual risk assessment, knowing that aspartame has no health benefits and may be a carcinogen.

widely used sugar substitute

Aspartame is widely used in the food industry as a sugar substitute Because it’s 200 times sweeter than sugar, which means it can be used in low concentrations with very few calories and achieve a similar taste.

According to statistics, about 6,000 products worldwide contain aspartame Calorie Control Councila trade group representing manufacturers of artificial sweeteners.

Aspartame was discovered in 1965 by scientists at GD Searle & Co. and was later sold under the brand name NutraSweet. This artificial sweetener has been controversial since its initial approval.

The FDA first approved this sugar substitute in 1974 as a tabletop sweetener and an additive in certain foods. The agency put that decision on hold for years as the reliability of a safety study submitted by GD Searle on whether aspartame was linked to the brain was called into question. tumor.

The FDA eventually concluded with reasonable certainty that aspartame did not cause brain tumors and authorized its sale in 1981. The agency subsequently approved the use of aspartame in several other types of foods and beverages, and finally approved it as a general-purpose sweetener in 1996.

The FDA said it will continue to monitor new scientific information about aspartame.

Correction: According to JECFA, a 70 kg or 154 lb adult would have to drink more than 9 to 14 cans of soda containing aspartame per day to exceed the limit and potentially face health risks. A previous version of this story mischaracterized the amount.


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