Medical experts discuss W.H.O. aspartame report

A committee with the World Health Organization said aspartame should be deemed “possibly carcinogenic.”
The World Health Organization has found an artificial sweetener in drinks might cause cancer.
Published: Jul. 14, 2023 at 6:25 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 14, 2023 at 6:35 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Medical experts weigh in after a committee from the World Health Organization released a report on Thursday that an artificial sweetener found in thousands of products worldwide might pose a health risk.

A committee from the W.H.O. said aspartame, commonly found in diet soda and tabletop sweeteners, should be deemed “possibly carcinogenic to humans.” In other words, the artificial sweetener might pose a cancer risk, but researchers also said evidence is limited.

“A lot of the controversy from this has come from, like the FDA saying that aspartame is safe, and everybody can use it and they shouldn’t be a worry, which based on the research,” said David Turner, a member of the cancer prevention and control research program at VCU Massey Cancer Center. “We don’t really get exposed to enough levels of this party to be able to cause cancer.”

Turner said at the doses we’re exposed to of aspartame, it’s doubtful it will cause cancer.

“There’s no evidence to support that,” said Turner.

With these findings in mind, health experts said moderation is key.

“Our results do not indicate occasional consumption should pose a risk to most consumers,” said Dr. Francesco Branca with the World Health Organization.

Turner also said people should follow the recommended guidelines for aspartame, which is 40 milligrams per kilogram of body weight daily.

“That’s somewhere around nine cans of diet soda, so it’s at the extreme end. I think a lot of the people that just don’t drink that much of soda per day,” said Turner. “At least another way of putting it is like 23 packets of sweetener.”

Turner also believes this should open the door for future research on the topic.

“We hear every day red wine is bad for you, it’s good for you the next day, and that causes a lot of sort of apathy when it comes to the dietary advice,” he said. “So, I think that’s something that really needs to be addressed, and we need to answer these questions, such as is aspartame good or bad, and we can only do that through research.”