Artificial Sweeteners and Cancer Risk? Insights from an Expert with Baptist Health Miami Cancer Institute
3 min. read
Baptist Health Miami Cancer Institute
The recent announcement by a World Health Organization (WHO) agency that the artificial sweetener aspartame — used in such low-calorie products as Diet Coke, Trident gum and sugar-free Jell-O — is "possibly carcinogenic to humans" has drawn pushback from medical experts and regulatory agencies, including the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and the American Cancer Society.
Physicians and dietitians generally agree that everyone should monitor and reduce the amount of artificial sweeteners in the diet primarily because these sugar substitutes can cause more cravings for unhealthy sweet foods.
The announcement from the WHO's , or IARC, reclassifies aspartame, which has been widely used in soft drinks and other products since the 1980s and is sold as NutraSweet and Equal, among other brand names. The FDA, however, issued a lengthy response to the WHO report, concluding that it “disagrees with IARC’s conclusion that these studies support classifying aspartame as a possible carcinogen to humans.”
The FDA states: “Aspartame is one of the most studied food additives in the human food supply. FDA scientists do not have safety concerns when aspartame is used under the approved conditions. The sweetener is approved in many countries.”
Cancer specialists agree, but caution to reduce or eliminate the consumption of artificial sweeteners overall. Previous and ongoing studies have suggested links between regular consumption of artificial sweeteners to weight gain, metabolic disorders, type-2 diabetes, alteration of gut bacteria and even a higher risk of stroke and dementia.
The American Cancer Society also pushed back against the findings of the WHO agency. The ASC states: “The results of epidemiologic studies (studies of groups of people) of possible links between aspartame and cancer (including blood-related cancers) have not been consistent for most cancers. Some studies have suggested a possible link, but others have not.”
Here are more insights on this topic from Dr. Sandoval Leon:
Water it the best alternative to diet soda. If you are looking for some flavor, you can infuse it with lemon or other fruits. Other alternatives are sparkling water that can also be infused with fruits. To conclude: I recommend following the American Cancer Society guidelines for diet and exercise to reduce the risk of developing cancer. In summary, eat lots of fruits and vegetables and limit the use of alcohol, red meat, processed meats, sweetened beverages and highly processed foods and refined grain products. Exercise at least 3 hours of moderate activity every week.”
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