The World Health Organization’s cancer agency has deemed the sweetener aspartame — found in diet soda and countless other foods — as a “possible” cause of cancer, while a separate expert group looking at the same evidence said it still considers the sugar substitute safe in limited quantities.
The differing results of the coordinated reviews were released early on Friday. One came from the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a special branch of the WHO. The other report was from an expert panel selected by WHO and another UN group, the Food and Agriculture Organization
The Lyon, France-based cancer agency periodically reviews potential cancer hazards, but doesn’t determine how likely they are to cause cancer in their evaluations which range from “possibly” carcinogenic to “probably” to cancer-causing.
Aspartame joins a category with more than 300 other possible cancer-causing agents, including things like aloe vera extract, Asian-style pickled vegetables and carpentry work
The guidance on the use of the sweetener, though, isn’t changing.
“We’re not advising consumers to stop consuming (aspartame) altogether,” said WHO’s nutrition director Dr. Francesco Branca. “We’re just advising a bit of moderation.”
Here’s a look at the announcement:
WHAT IS ASPARTAME?
Aspartame is a low-calorie artificial sweetener that is about 200 times sweeter than sugar. It is a white, odorless powder and the world’s most widely used artificial sweetener.