Aspartame: Possible Carcinogen in Some Fizzy Drinks

Concerns have arisen regarding aspartame, an artificial sweetener commonly found in popular food and carbonated beverages, as it may soon be classified as "possibly carcinogenic." According to international reports.

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Aspartame: Potential Cancer Risk and Safety Concerns

the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the cancer research division of the World Health Organization (WHO), will assign this label to aspartame for the first time next month. However, the classification itself often leads to confusion, as it does not provide immediate clarity on the magnitude of the health risks associated with the substance. Similar labeling has been applied to other substances, including aloe vera. Let's explore what aspartame is, its prevalence, and the potential risks involved.

What is Aspartame and How Does It Compare to Sugar?

Aspartame was discovered by American chemist James Schlatter in 1965 and approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in 1974. Its popularity stems from being approximately 200 times sweeter than regular sugar while containing no calories. With increased awareness campaigns and taxes on sugar in recent decades, artificial sweeteners like aspartame have gained widespread usage. Today, aspartame can be found as an ingredient in various diet or sugar-free drinks, chewing gum, yogurts, and a multitude of other food items, including confectionery, desserts, sugar-free cough drops, tinned foods, and powdered drinks.

Is Aspartame Considered Safe?

Aspartame is widely used around the world, with regulatory authorities in over 90 countries, such as Germany, the UK, France, Denmark, New Zealand, and Australia, deeming it safe for human consumption. According to Reuters, the US Food and Drug Administration sets the acceptable daily intake at 50 milligrams per kilogram of body weight per day, while Europe's regulatory body recommends 40 mg/kg/day. Based on these guidelines, an individual weighing 60kg would need to consume dozens of cans of products containing aspartame in a single day to reach these limits.

Why the Potential Classification as 'Possibly Carcinogenic'?

Despite its approved use, aspartame has long been the subject of debate. The IARC has undertaken an extensive safety assessment, analyzing 1,300 studies to explore potential links between the sweetener and cancer. The IARC categorizes substances into four groups: Group 1 (carcinogenic to humans), Group 2A (probably carcinogenic to humans), Group 2B (possibly carcinogenic to humans), and Group 3 (not classifiable). Reuters suggests that aspartame is expected to fall into the third category, indicating a relatively lower level of risk. However, the classification alone does not consider the safe consumption limits for individuals, which are typically provided by the Joint WHO and FAO Expert Committee on Food Additives in conjunction with national regulators.

What Do Authorities Say About Sweeteners?

Contrary to their 'diet' label, the World Health Organization released a statement in May stating that products containing artificial sweeteners do not assist individuals in managing their weight. Researchers analyzed data from numerous studies and found a link between the consumption of non-sugar sweeteners and increased rates of obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and tooth decay.

What Can We Expect Next?

The upcoming report, along with the decision of the separate expert committee on food additives, is anticipated to be released on July 14, as reported by Reuters. This release will provide further insights into the potential risks associated with aspartame and its classification by the IARC.

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