The cancer research arm of the World Health Organization (WHO) is anticipated to designate aspartame, a widely used artificial sweetener in diet beverages, as a potential carcinogen.
In a statement, the WHO reported, “The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has assessed the potential carcinogenic effect of aspartame. Following this, the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) will update its risk assessment exercise on aspartame, including the reviewing of the acceptable daily intake and dietary exposure assessment for aspartame.”
While the recent WHO report acknowledges limited evidence linking the sweetener to cancer, it also suggests that the overall connection between aspartame and cancer remains inconclusive.
Aspartame, an artificial sweetener, finds widespread use in various beverages and food items such as Diet Coke, sugar-free chewing gum, Dannon Activia yogurt, certain cough drops, and specific toothpaste brands.
The IARC evaluates the potential hazards of chemicals and substances by examining available research and published evidence. It is important to note that the agency’s assessment does not consider the safe levels of consumption for individuals.
The meeting commenced in late June, and the final results and decision of the IARC will be disclosed on July 14th, coinciding with the announcement.
The decision to label aspartame as a potential carcinogen is expected to generate controversy, particularly due to the popularity of products such as Diet Coke among consumers. The IARC has previously faced criticism for raising concerns about substances that are challenging to avoid, which has sometimes caused alarm among the public.
The WHO is set to list the artificial sweetener aspartame, one of the most commonly used sweeteners and found in many diet sodas like Diet Coke, as a possible carcinogen, meaning it may cause cancer. https://t.co/UCHNZwtwpi pic.twitter.com/Jp9RuxqF6h
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Secretary General of the International Sweeteners Association Frances Hunt-Wood had this to say about the report, “IARC is not a food safety body. Aspartame is one of the most thoroughly researched ingredients in history, with over 90 food safety agencies across the globe declaring it is safe, including the European Food Safety Authority, which conducted the most comprehensive safety evaluation of aspartame to date.”
The recent classification by the WHO is a significant setback for sugar substitutes in general. The organization has advised consumers to discontinue the use of non-sugar sweeteners for weight loss, stating that they do not contribute to weight reduction in any meaningful way.