How bad is aspartame?

I’m no fan of artificial sweeteners of any sort. A recent European study found that aspartame causes cancer. The FDA is reviewing the study. In the meantime, regulatory agencies have discounted any putative links between aspartame and cancer.


2 Responses

  1. I was just reading about aspartame today in an email newsletter from

    Study Minimizes Aspartame Risks

    A huge federal study in people – not rats – takes the fizz out of arguments that the diet soda sweetener aspartame might raise the risk of cancer.

    No increased risk was seen even among people who gulped down many artificially sweetened drinks a day, said researchers who studied the diets of more than half a million older Americans.

    A consumer group praised the study, done by reputable researchers independent of any funding or ties to industry groups.

    “It goes a fair way toward allaying concerns about aspartame,” said Michael Jacobson, head of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which had urged the government to review the sweetener’s safety after a troubling rat study last year.

    Findings were reported Tuesday at a meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research.

    Aspartame came on the market 25 years ago and is found in thousands of products – sodas, chewing gum, dairy products and even many medicines. NutraSweet and Equal are popular brands.

    Research in the 1970s linked a different sweetener, saccharin, to bladder cancer in lab rats. Although the mechanism by which this occurred does not apply to people and no human risk was ever documented, worries about sugar substitutes in general have persisted.

    They worsened after Italian researchers last year reported results of the largest animal study ever done on aspartame, involving 1,800 lab rats. Females developed more lymphomas and leukemias on aspartame than those not fed the sweetener.

    The new study, by scientists at the National Cancer Institute, involved 340,045 men and 226,945 women, ages 50 to 69, participating in a research project by the National Institute of Health and AARP, formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons.

    From surveys they filled out in 1995 and 1996 detailing food and beverage consumption, researchers calculated how much aspartame they consumed, especially from sodas or from adding the sweetener to coffee or tea.

    Over the next five years, 2,106 developed blood-related cancers such as lymphoma or leukemia, and 376 developed brain tumors. No link was found to aspartame consumption for these cancers in general or for specific types, said Unhee Lim, who reported the study’s findings.

    The dietary information was collected before the cancers developed, removing the possibility of “memory bias” – faulty recollection influenced by knowing you have a disease.

    “It’s very reassuring. It’s a large study with a lot of power,” said Richard Adamson, a senior science consultant to the American Beverage Association, the leading industry group. ©2006 Associated Press.

    Editor’s Note: Dr. Blaylock argues that aspartame is dangerous

    The very next headline/story in the newsletter was the following, but it doesn’t appear to be Dr. Blaylock’s commentary specifically on this study. Unfortunately, none of their links worked. But here it is…

    Dr. Blaylock On The Dangers of Aspartame

    The following is an excerpt from the Blaylock Wellness Report, The Fat Cure: Health Secrets to Losing Weight Permanently []

    There is growing evidence that aspartame, the artificial sweetener called NutraSweet or Equal, is one of the most dangerous sweeteners ever produced.

    Studies have linked aspartame consumption with significant increases in numerous cancers (especially brain cancer), degenerative brain disorders, progression of multiple sclerosis, depression, suicide, obesity, headaches and seizures.

    Yet few are aware of the study done by the original manufacturer of aspartame in 1976 that demonstrated a connection between aspartame consumption and atrophy (shrinkage) of the testes.

    In that study aspartame was fed to mice in low, medium and high doses. The mice consuming the aspartame in all three doses developed shrinkage of their testes, but it was much more common and severe at higher doses.

    No one has bothered to test humans to see whether they suffer from the same effects.
    When aspartame was first approved for general use, regulators limited safety to two cans of soda a day.

    Now they have revised those figures to 50 mg/kg/day, or about 17 colas a day in an adult, without any new evidence to support this change in safety policy.

    Because of their smaller body weight, children can reach this level drinking only two to three colas per day. So many foods, medicines and drinks are now sweetened with aspartame that it is not uncommon for individuals to consume 50 mg/kg/day or higher, especially during hot summer days.

  2. FWIW, the Wikipedia entry, which as of 5/16/2006 seemed to cover the controversies pretty well, is “here”: It seems to me that, if the American Cancer Society wants to argue

    bq. “since aspartame is broken down into these components before it is absorbed into the blood stream, aspartame in its initial form does not have the opportunity to travel to target organs, including the brain, to cause cancer”

    they would need to back up this claim. (Unfortunately, the reference link at Wikipedia to the ACS(American Cancer Society) is broken.)

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