A sweeteaner used in diet drinks that may cause cancer

Aspartame: A sweetener used in diet drinks that may cause cancer

sprite zero, diet 7up, coke zero

The World Health Organization's recommendations for how much aspartame we can eat or drink have remained unchanged, while concerns have been raised about this cancer-causing sugar substitute.  

 Two groups of WHO experts are reviewing the scientific papers in this regard. The label 'probable cause of cancer' often evokes fear and concern, but it also means that the evidence is insufficient.

Most people consume less than the recommended amount of aspartame, but the World Health Organization recommends that people with obesity consume even less.

Aspartame is found in diet or sugar-free foods. It is 200 times sweeter than sugar but does not contain as many calories as sugar.

Products Containing Aspartame


Popular brands such as Diet Coke, Coke Zero, sprite zero

, diet 7up, Pepsi Max and Seven Up Free contain aspartame sweeteners. But it is also found in about 6,000 products such as toothpaste, chewing gum, yogurt and sweetened cough drops.

Despite its widespread use, the chemical's safety was controversial in the 1980s.

I asked Dr. Francisco Branca, director of WHO's Department of Nutrition and Food Safety, which is the healthier option: sugar or sweets?

"If you have to decide whether to drink cola with sweetener or cola with sugar, I think the third way is to drink water and limit your intake of sugary things," he said.

He says a review of research papers has raised "concerns" that aspartame is not good for health. People who occasionally or occasionally drink diet drinks or other beverages that contain aspartame.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer at WHO first reviewed the evidence.

He describes four possible types:

What is known to cause cancer in humans?

Rankings based on how much evidence there is from high to low

1.Causes cancer     

·         Smoking

·         Sun

·         Alcohol

·         Radiation


2.Probably causes cancer     

·         Frying emissions

·         Red meat

·         Night shifts

·         DDT insecticide

3.Possibly causes cancer     

·         Aspartame sweetener

·         Engine exhaust fumes

·         Lead

·         Working as a hairdresser


4.Not enough evidence it causes cancer     

·         Coffee

·         Paracetamol

·         Mercury

·         Crude oil

Source: The WHO's International Agency for Research on Cancer


The World Health Organization has classified aspartame as one of the substances it says is 'probably carcinogenic'. This list also includes aloe vera and lead

The reason for the decision is three papers linking it to liver cancer.

However, 'probable' is written as it relates to scientific evidence. If the evidence were solid, aspartame would be ranked higher.

Dr Marie Schorbergen, from the International Agency for Research on Cancer, says the 'evidence was of good quality and not acceptable' and 'this is a message to researchers' to do more research on sweets.

Cancer classification often makes false headlines. Alcohol and plutonium are carcinogens so are in the same classification but one is much more dangerous.

Therefore, it is the job of the 'Expert Committee on Food Additives', a joint department of the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization, to determine the safe amount of a product.

They reviewed the evidence for aspartame causing cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes, but found 'insufficient evidence' and have not changed their recommendation since 1981.

How much Aspartame is safe to consume

The safe intake of aspartame is 40 mg/kg body weight per day.

This is not a target but a maximum recommended amount. It is related to body weight and children are more likely to reach this limit.

Dr Branca said putting sugary carbonated drinks on the table at dinner was 'not a good decision' as it could set children up for lifelong sugar addiction.

He added that there is solid scientific evidence that eating sweetners does not help with weight loss.


He advises people to adopt a low-sugar diet, which eliminates both sugar and sweeteners, while companies create less sweet but tastier products.

The biggest question is how does aspartame cause cancer? Aspartame breaks down very quickly in the intestine into three substances: phenylalanine, aspartic acid and methanol, the World Health Organization reports.

But they are formed during the digestion of many types of food and have nothing to do with cancer. According to researchers, aspartame does not directly cause cancer in people's DNA. One possible cause could be increased levels of inflammation in the body.

Francis Huntwood, secretary-general of the International Sweeteners Association, said the review had once again proven the safety of aspartame.

"Aspartame, like other low calorie sweetener, reduces person's sugar intake through a balanced diet &  is an very important public health issue," he added.


There are few people who cannot safely take aspartame. These are people who have a congenital disease called PKU. Such people cannot digest phenylalanine, which is formed from the breakdown of aspartame.




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