Artificial sweetener aspartame declared ‘possibly carcinogenic’ by WHO

Artificial sweetener aspartame declared ‘possibly carcinogenic’ by WHO

Artificial sweetener aspartame has been declared carcinogenic, meaning it can cause cancer in humans. Read on to know common foods that contain it and if you are at risk or not!

Thanks to the sudden shift to prioritising health, many people have reduced their intake of unhealthy things. In recent years, the consumption of artificial sweeteners has skyrocketed as people have reduced their sugar intake and managed their weight. These sugar substitutes are usually found in a variety of food and beverage products labeled as “diet” or “sugar-free” that promise you the taste without adding calories. However, the sweetener of these artificial sweeteners has been a controversial topic. The latest artificial sweetener under scrutiny was Aspartame.

In the latest update, the World Health Organisation has declared aspartame as “possibly carcinogenic to humans”. However, it was also highlighted that “safety is not a major concern,” considering people don’t consume too much of this artificial sweetener.

artificial sweetener and cancer
Artificial sweetener aspartame can cause cancer. Image courtesy: Adobe stock

Artificial sweetener Aspartame officially declared carcinogenic

In a report released on Thursday by the World Health Organization, a team of 25 international experts concluded that aspartame may “possibly” cause cancer in humans. This updated classification, based on a review of “limited evidence,” does not change the suggested daily intake cap for this artificial sweetener.

Dr Francesco Branca, director of the Department of Nutrition and Food Safety at the WHO, during the press conference in Geneva, said that the consumption of this artificial sweetener in moderation does not pose a risk to most consumers. It is a bigger threat to people who consume too much diet sodas and other foods containing aspartame.

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How much aspartame is too much?

Aspartame is a low-calorie artificial sweetener found in several foods and beverages such as chewing gums, sugar-free diet sodas, and several other artificially sweetened goods. As per the Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) of WHO, there is not sufficient evidence to justify changing the previously recommended daily intake for aspartame. As per previously recommended intake of the artificial sweetener, 0-40 mg/kg body weight can work. It would not be dangerous if the person stick to the recommended daily limit of consuming artificial sweeteners.

artificial sweeteners aspartame
Know how much of aspartame can you have daily. Image Courtesy: Shutterstock

For an adult weighing 70 kg, it would take the consumption of more than 9-14 cabs of diet sodas per day to experience the side effects. Plus, this would affect if no other food source is consumed along with the drinks throughout the day. Having said that, the idea is not to cut it down completely but to practice moderation so that there are no consequences. However, more research is required to ensure the impact of aspartame on health.

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In fact, previous research has suggested that aspartame is safe to use, considering it is consumed in moderation. Renowned authorities such as US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) have found that aspartame is safe to use. The latest update by WHO has sparked a debate yet again on the usage of aspartame as an artificial sweetener. Studies have shown mixed results when it comes to aspartame, to which experts say that we need more information to link aspartame with cancer.

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