Does Aspartame Cause Cancer?

Aspartame, the popular artificial sweetener found in numerous food and beverage products, has long been debated regarding its potential link to cancer. Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) released reports that shed light on this issue, presenting conflicting statements that have left many people questioning the safety of aspartame, the sugar-free sweetener found in low-calorie foods.

The WHO's statements on aspartame reflect the opinions of two separate groups within the organization. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), focused on identifying cancer-causing agents, classified aspartame as "possibly carcinogenic," suggesting some evidence of its potential to cause cancer in humans. However, this classification does not imply a definitive link or guarantee that consuming aspartame will lead to cancer. 

On the other hand, the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives, responsible for assessing the safety of food additives, concluded that no changes are currently required to the recommended limit of aspartame intake. They maintained that the acceptable daily intake is quite high, and there is no immediate cause for concern. For aspartame, this limit is set at 40 milligrams per kilogram of body weight per day. To put it into perspective, an average adult would need to consume an excessive amount of diet soda (around nine to 14 cans per day) to exceed this limit, assuming no additional aspartame intake from other sources. As with any food or beverage, moderation remains key.

There is no substantial evidence suggesting that sugar or non-sugar sweeteners directly increase cancer risk or negatively affect treatment response. However, it is recommended to limit sugary beverages and other foods high in added sugars as this can help avoid excess calorie intake and subsequently, potential weight gain that may increase the risk of several cancers. Moreover, by doing so, there is more room to consume nutrient-rich foods that contribute to overall good health.

IARC and WHO will continue to track emerging evidence and encourage independent research groups to conduct additional studies exploring the potential association between aspartame exposure and its effects on consumer health.


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