For anyone who consumes sugar-free drinks like Diet Coke, or eats sugar-free alternatives to foods, the latest news that artificial sweeteners could be linked to cancer is worrying.
According to the most recent report from Reuters on the subject, artificial sweeteners could be harmful. The report comes from new research that’s been released by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IRAC), the cancer research arm of the World Health Organization.
The agency’s research found that one of the most commonly used sweeteners, Aspartame, could increase the risk of cancer for consumers.
Aspartame is a low-calorie artificial sweetener. It’s a white, odorless powder that is around 200 times sweeter than sugar. It’s currently authorized as a food additive and is used in a wide array of foods and drinks, including sweets, yogurts, chewing gum, and sweeteners like Nutrasweet.
However, the IARC says that it could soon reclassify Aspartame as a possible carcinogen, which means it could be capable of causing cancer.
The WHO has advised that non-sugar sweeteners shouldn’t be used for weight loss purposes as a precautionary measure and concerns are being raised about how much of the sweetener people can safely consume.
There have been previous studies conducted by the FDA on the effects of aspartame, but there hasn’t been any conclusive evidence that shows it affects overall cancer rates.
The WHO’s committee on additives is reviewing aspartame at the moment, but its current guidance has been in place for 40 years and says that aspartame is safe to consume as long as you stay within the accepted daily limits. For example, under the current limits, someone weighing 132 pounds would need to drink at least 12 cans of diet soda a day to be at risk.
Frances Hunt-Wood, the secretary general of the International Sweeteners Association (ISA) also said that it had “serious concerns with the IARC review, which may mislead consumers”. He added: “IARC is not a food safety body and their review of aspartame is not scientifically comprehensive and is based heavily on widely discredited research.”