The World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has stated that the artificial sweetener aspartame, may be “possibly carcinogenic to humans”, triggering concerns over its safety.
Key Announcement: The IARC “raised a flag” for more research into aspartame, a widely-used sweetener found in products such as Diet Coke and Trident gum.
* The “possibly carcinogenic” classification does not indicate a known cancer risk from consuming aspartame, according to Dr. Mary Schubauer-Berigan, a senior official at IARC.
* Aspartame has been reclassified but, the WHO’s acceptable daily intake recommendation hasn’t been altered.
A Crucial Distinction: Aspartame is classified within the WHO’s four-tiered system as “possibly carcinogenic”, a category that includes various other substances.
* This category includes substances such as extracts of aloe vera, traditional Asian pickled vegetables, and some vehicle fuels.
Scientists Pitch In: Experts insist that further research is needed to definitively establish a link between aspartame and cancer.
* Marjorie McCullough, senior scientific director of epidemiology research at the American Cancer Society, underlines the need for more studies.
* Daniele Wikoff, a principal scientist at ToxStrategies, asserts that while a small part of the overall evidence base was used to justify the classification, the larger portion of studies indicates aspartame’s safety.
Consumer Guidance: Despite aspartame’s potential risks, experts still advise limiting sugary regular soda consumption.
* Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, a cardiologist and professor at Tufts University’s Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, suggests it’s better to switch to diet soda but best to switch to unsweetened sparkling water.
* Dr. Frank Hu, a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Harvard School of Public Health, reiterated that limitations on reliable scientific research make it difficult to gauge aspartame’s effects and that it would take a large study population to obtain reliable answers.
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