Is aspartame, one of the most popular artificial sweeteners, actually safe to consume or not?
The answer is that it really depends on which international health group you believe.
Recently, two separate groups that have ties to the World Health Organization issued conclusions that seem to be at odds to each other.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer, or IARC, said that aspartame was “possibly carcinogenic.”
Yet, the Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives, or JECFA, said they found “no convincing evidence from experimental animal or human data that aspartame has adverse effects after ingestion.”
On one hand, the artificial sweetener could cause cancer. But, on the other hand, it’s completely safe to consume.
So, which is it?
It’s conflicting reports like these that only play into people’s doubts about the WHO and recommendations that it – and groups associated with it – make.
Neither study resulted in the WHO changing the recommended daily intake of the artificial sweetener. And an official who works for the WHO on food safety said consuming aspartame is “not a major concern at the doses which are commonly used.”
In fact, the study that concluded that aspartame could be potentially carcinogenic found that a person would have to drink at least 12 cans of diet soda each day to consume the levels of aspartame that were studied.
One of the major questions that comes out of these studies is why the WHO would release any warning about aspartame in the first place if there wasn’t a definitive conclusion. Doesn’t issuing this warning in the first place actually cause more confusion than it helps?
Stateside, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said recently that it doesn’t at all agree with the WHO assessment of aspartame.
The agency recently said:
“The FDA disagrees with IARC’s conclusion that these studies support classifying aspartame as a possible carcinogen to humans. FDA scientists reviewed the scientific information included in IARC’s review in 2021 when it was first made available and identified significant shortcomings in the studies on which IARC relied.”
The U.S. food and beverage industry, not surprisingly, agreed with the FDA’s conclusions. The American Beverage Association plainly stated:
“Aspartame is safe. People all around the world can be confident in consuming food and beverages with aspartame. The safety of our products is the highest priority for our industry.”
There were many other people in the U.S. who were unhappy with the WHO’s report. For instance, Marion Nestle, an author and New York University professor of nutrition, food studies and public health emerita, didn’t like how the organization released the reports.
She said recently:
“So, the IARC came out and said based on limited evidence, aspartame is possibly a carcinogen. What on Earth are you supposed to do with that? IARC says that there’s tons of evidence that aspartame includes metabolic problems. But, I don’t see the evidence, because they haven’t published it.”
Yet, another shortcoming from the WHO.