The sweetener aspartame, commonly found in diet drinks and various food items, has been classified as a “possible carcinogen” by the World Health Organization’s (WHO) cancer agency. However, the WHO and a separate expert group affirm that aspartame remains safe for consumption within agreed-upon levels and in moderation.
Review by WHO’s Cancer Agency: The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a branch of the WHO, released a study classifying aspartame as a “possible” cause of cancer. This classification indicates limited evidence of its potential to cause cancer. It is important to note that this review does not consider the quantity needed to pose a risk.
Expert Panel’s Evaluation: Another review was conducted by an expert panel selected by the WHO and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). This panel examined the same evidence and concluded that aspartame is safe in limited quantities. They recommend keeping consumption levels below 40mg/kg per day, a recommendation established in 1981 and adopted by regulatory bodies worldwide.
Scientific Community and Industry Response: Several scientists not associated with the reviews expressed skepticism about the evidence linking aspartame to cancer. Food and beverage industry associations welcomed the decisions, stating that they confirm the safety of aspartame as an option for reducing sugar intake.
Moderation is Key: The WHO emphasizes that consumers do not need to eliminate aspartame from their diets. Instead, moderation is advised. The existing consumption levels of aspartame are considered safe, with individuals needing to consume excessive amounts to reach the limit. The WHO recommends companies and consumers exercise moderation in the use of aspartame.
Continued Research: The WHO acknowledges the importance of ongoing research to understand the potential effects of aspartame better. While safety concerns are not significant at commonly used doses, further studies are needed to investigate potential impacts.
Conclusion: The classification of aspartame as a “possible carcinogen” by the IARC raises awareness of its potential risks. However, the consensus among experts, including the WHO and FAO panel, is that aspartame remains safe for consumption in moderation. Consumers are encouraged to make informed choices and maintain a balanced approach to their dietary habits. The WHO emphasizes the need for continuous scientific research to understand better the factors contributing to cancer and reduce its global impact.