Will I get cancer if I drink beverages sweetened with aspartame?

Aspartame, a controversial artificial sweetener, raises concerns about cancer risk, but evidence remains inconclusive. Avoid excessive intake for a healthier lifestyle.

Will I get cancer if I drink beverages sweetened with aspartame?
Scientists continue to study the potential links between aspartame consumption and cancer risk Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash

Aspartame, an artificial sweetener that has been in use for over 40 years, has become a common ingredient in a wide array of beverages and processed foods worldwide. Originally developed as a sugar substitute for weight-loss treatments due to its calorie-free nature, its applications have expanded significantly recently. However, concerns about its safety, particularly regarding its potential to increase the risk of cancer, have led to extensive research and varying conclusions.

Numerous studies have been conducted to assess the safety of aspartame, using two main approaches: animal testing on laboratory rodents and epidemiological studies in human populations. The results have been divergent, with some suggesting a potential link between aspartame and cancer risk, while others remain inconclusive.

The Ramazzini Institute in Europe conducted rodent studies that showed an increase in certain types of tumors and lymphomas associated with aspartame consumption. However, experts have criticized the study's design and methodology, deeming the results inconclusive.

In contrast, a study in the United States that analyzed food consumption data from 1988 to 2018 found no impact on cancer mortality related to aspartame consumption. On the other hand, a similar study conducted in France between 2009 and 2021 reported a higher risk of breast cancer and obesity-related cancer among those who consumed more aspartame. Additionally, aspartame intake was linked to an increased risk of cerebrovascular events and oxidative stress, which can contribute to neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's.

One possible reason for the discrepancies between studies could be differing nutritional habits among populations worldwide. Diet variations can significantly impact health outcomes, including cancer risk, making it challenging to draw definitive conclusions about the effects of aspartame on health.

In light of the ongoing controversy surrounding the potential cancer risk, the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer has categorized aspartame as a class 2B possible carcinogen. This classification doesn't definitively indicate that the sweetener causes cancer, but it suggests some basis for concern, with limited evidence available.

One crucial factor to consider is that the risk of cancer or other health issues related to aspartame consumption increases with both the amount consumed daily or weekly and the duration of consumption. If aspartame consumption begins in childhood, the risk accumulates over a lifetime. This concern has led some countries, like Mexico, to label processed foods containing artificial sweeteners, warning against their consumption by children.

In a troubling finding, a study conducted in Hermosillo revealed that schoolchildren, particularly those from areas with medium marginalization, were consuming excessive amounts of artificial sweeteners, with aspartame being the second most commonly used sweetener in their diet. Interestingly, those children who consumed the most “diet” sweeteners, including aspartame, were also the most overweight and obese. This pattern was consistent with a similar US study, which found that adults with higher non-caloric sweetener intake were more obese. Evidently, aspartame does not serve the function of aiding weight maintenance and can contribute to undesirable health disorders.

While the debate over whether aspartame directly increases the risk of cancer persists, it is evident that the sweetener can influence the development of other health issues and provides no weight management benefits. Consequently, it becomes crucial to dissuade children from acquiring a taste for aspartame-laden products, emphasizing healthier alternatives instead.

In conclusion, aspartame remains a controversial topic in the realm of artificial sweeteners. Though some studies have raised concerns about its potential links to cancer and other health issues, evidence remains limited and inconclusive. However, the collective research highlights the lack of advantages aspartame offers in terms of weight management, and its consumption may contribute to other health problems. To promote healthier lifestyles and mitigate potential risks, encouraging reduced aspartame consumption and adopting whole-food, natural sweeteners is a prudent approach for both adults and children alike. As research continues to unfold, it is essential to stay informed and make mindful choices regarding sweetener usage in our daily lives.

In-Text Citation: ¿Enfermaré De Cáncer Si Tomo Bebidas Endulzadas Con Aspartame? — Centro De Investigación En Alimentación Y Desarrollo (CIAD), 14 July 2023, www.ciad.mx/enfermare-de-cancer-si-tomo-bebidas-endulzadas-con-aspartame. Collaboration of Ana María Calderón de la Barca, researcher at the Nutrition Coordination of CIAD.