Worried About Aspartame? The FDA Says You Shouldn’t Be.

The WHO issued its warning, but it's not as serious as you might think. Worried About Aspartame? The FDA Says You Shouldn’t Be. Shutterstock

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If you’re a fan of diet sodas and other low-calorie foods that use the popular sugar substitute aspartame, you might be concerned by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer declaration that the additive is “possibly” connected to an elevated cancer risk.

But how real is the threat? That depends on which expert you ask.

Decoding the WHO assessment

Aspartame has been the subject of countless studies over the past several decades, mostly linked to research involving lab animals. As for how those risks translate to humans, however, there’s plenty of uncertainty.

And that’s reflected in the IARC statement on the matter. According to the international agency, aspartame received a “low-confidence” designation, meaning additional research is needed. Here’s what you should know:

  • 322 other items have a similar designation from the IARC.
  • They include aloe vera and ginkgo biloba extract as well as radio frequency waves.
  • There’s no specification about how much aspartame constitutes a risk.

What other organizations say

While the WHO’s cancer agency might be taking significant precautions in labeling this additive a possible cancer risk, many other entities are comfortable telling the public they shouldn’t be worried about using it.

In fact, another WHO organization — the Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives — released its finding that “a consistent association between aspartame consumption and a specific cancer type was not observed.”

Perhaps the most compelling statement came from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. In its response to the recent determination, the agency wrote: “The FDA disagrees with IARC’s conclusion that these studies support classifying aspartame as a possible carcinogen to humans.”

After conducting its own studies on the matter, the FDA concluded: "Aspartame being labeled by IARC as 'possibly carcinogenic to humans' does not mean that aspartame is actually linked to cancer.”

Chris Agee
Chris Agee July 20th, 2023
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