Aspartame: World Health Organization Declares Sweetener a Possible Carcinogen, but Still Safe to Consume in Moderation

Article Title: WHO States Aspartame is a Possible Cause of Cancer but Remains Safe in Moderation

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared that the artificial sweetener aspartame, commonly found in diet drinks and various food items, is potentially linked to cancer. However, the WHO maintains that consuming aspartame in moderation and at already established levels is still safe. In two separate reviews released by the WHO on Friday, one group classified aspartame as a “possible” carcinogen, while another expert panel emphasized that it is safe at limited quantities. Despite the concern expressed by the WHO, the guidance on the usage of aspartame remains unchanged.

First Section:
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a branch of the WHO, released their assessment on aspartame, classifying it as a “possible carcinogen.” This designation means that there is limited evidence suggesting that the substance can cause cancer. However, this classification does not take into account the consumption levels required to pose a risk, which is evaluated by the WHO and FAO Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA). JECFA conducted its own comprehensive review and concluded that there is no convincing evidence of harm caused by aspartame. They continue to recommend that people keep their consumption levels below 40mg/kg per day, a guideline set in 1981 which is followed by regulatory bodies worldwide.

Second Section:
To clarify the seemingly conflicting declarations, the WHO’s nutrition director, Dr. Francesco Branca, emphasized that consumers do not need to stop consuming aspartame altogether. Instead, the recommendation is to moderate its intake. Dr. Branca proposed a third option for consumers seeking to decrease sugar intake by opting for water instead of artificially sweetened or sugary drinks. Despite the varying opinions on the potential risks of aspartame, experts not associated with the reviews stated that the evidence linking aspartame to cancer is weak.

Third Section:
Industry associations representing the food and beverage sector welcomed the WHO’s stance, asserting that aspartame is safe and a viable option for reducing sugar consumption. The WHO emphasized that the existing consumption levels would require a person weighing between 60-70kg to consume more than 9-14 cans of soft drinks daily to exceed the established limit based on the average aspartame content. Dr. Branca emphasized that occasional consumption of aspartame would not pose a significant risk for most consumers. The WHO is not calling for companies to remove aspartame from their products completely but urging moderation from both the manufacturers and consumers.

As the WHO continues its efforts to reduce the burden of cancer worldwide, they acknowledge that assessing potential contributing factors is crucial. While the safety of aspartame is not a major concern at commonly used dosages, there is a need for further research to investigate potential effects. The WHO’s declaration regarding aspartame aims to provide the public with accurate information and promote informed decision-making regarding their consumption of artificial sweeteners.