WHO Agency Declares Aspartame a Possible Carcinogen

A WHO agency on Thursday declared aspartame is a possible carcinogen, fueling further debate on the safety of the artificial sweetener
WHO Agency Declares Aspartame a Possible Carcinogen

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FRIDAY, July 14, 2023 (HealthDay News) -- In findings that are likely to fuel the debate over the safety of aspartame, a World Health Organization agency -- the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) -- announced Thursday that the artificial sweetener is a possible carcinogen.

"Cancer is one of the leading causes of death globally. Every year, one in six people die from cancer. Science is continuously expanding to assess the possible initiating or facilitating factors of cancer, in the hope of reducing these numbers and the human toll," Francesco Branca, M.D., director of the WHO department of nutrition and food safety, said in an agency news release. "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."

How much aspartame is unsafe?

"The average 150 lb. person would need to consume about 14 12-oz cans of diet beverages or about 74 packets of aspartame-containing tabletop sweetener every day over the course of their life to raise any safety concern," Calorie Control Council President Robert Rankin said in a Council statement. "Obviously, that level of consumption is not realistic, recommended, nor is it ‎aligned with the intended use of these ingredients."

The IARC came to its conclusion that aspartame could possibly cause cancer after analyzing three observational studies in humans. The studies found a link between beverages sweetened with aspartame and liver cancer.

Several other industry groups issued statements challenging the new ruling, and even the U.S. Food and Drug Administration took issue with it. "The FDA disagrees with IARC's conclusion that these studies support classifying aspartame as a possible carcinogen to humans," the FDA said in an agency statement. "Aspartame being labeled by IARC as 'possibly carcinogenic to humans' does not mean that aspartame is actually linked to cancer."

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