WHO Declares Aspartame as 'Possible Carcinogen': Here's What That Really Means

14 Jul 2023 • The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) announced today that it has officially classified the artificial sweetener aspartame as a possible carcinogen. Citing 'limited evidence' for carcinogenicity in humans, IARC classified aspartame as possibly carcinogenic to humans (IARC Group 2B) and JECFA reaffirmed the acceptable daily intake of 40 mg/kg body weight.

Aspartame is an artificial (chemical) sweetener widely used in various food and beverage products since the 1980s, including diet drinks, chewing gum, gelatin, ice cream, dairy products such as yogurt, breakfast cereal, toothpaste and medications such as cough drops and chewable vitamins.

JECFA concluded that the data evaluated indicated no sufficient reason to change the previously established acceptable daily intake (ADI) of 0–40 mg/kg body weight for aspartame. The committee therefore reaffirmed that it is safe for a person to consume within this limit per day. For example, with a can of diet soft drink containing 200 or 300 mg of aspartame, an adult weighing 70kg would need to consume more than 9–14 cans per day to exceed the acceptable daily intake, assuming no other intake from other food sources.

This was the first time that IARC has evaluated aspartame and the third time for JECFA. “The assessments of aspartame have indicated that, while safety is not a major concern at the doses which are commonly used, potential effects have been described that need to be investigated by more and better studies.” said Dr Francesco Branca, Director of the Department of Nutrition and Food Safety, WHO.

The strength-of-evidence classification in Group 2B is the third highest level out of 4 levels, and it is generally used either when there is limited, but not convincing, evidence for cancer in humans or convincing evidence for cancer in experimental animals, but not both.

Although the studies were of "high quality and controlled for many potential confounders," the Working Group concluded that "chance, bias, or confounding could not be ruled out with reasonable confidence." Thus, the evidence for cancer in humans was deemed "limited" for hepatocellular carcinoma and "inadequate" for other cancer types," the group explained.

Source: WHO| Read full story

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