Aspartame has recently made headlines due to being classified by an influential global health agency as potentially carcinogenic, pitting food industry representatives against regulators in an argument between them both.
What does this mean for your diet? The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) reached its conclusions after carefully considering all available evidence – from lab data and animal studies, as well as human trials; however, their panel did not examine human studies and it remains too soon to say that aspartame causes cancer.
Aspartame was introduced into mainstream foods in the 1980s as a lower-calorie replacement for sugar. Composed of two amino acids called aspartic acid and phenylalanine, Aspartame can be found in beverages, jello desserts, candy bars and canned foods to cut calories without altering texture or flavor.
Sofritti et al conducted a study last year involving mice and rats that concluded aspartame could increase leukemia and lymphoma risks, though their findings do not establish a direct cause-and-effect relationship between aspartame use and changes in cancer incidence rates.
Halldorsson et al’s recent study examined data from over 100,000 individuals who tracked what they ate and drank over time. It concluded that those who consumed artificial sweeteners such as aspartame had slightly increased cancer risks than others; however, since it relied upon recall by participants rather than laboratory data or epidemiological analyses.