Unhealthy sweetener? WHO classifies aspartame as “possibly carcinogenic”.

 Unhealthy sweetener?  WHO classifies aspartame as "possibly carcinogenic".

The World Health Organization (WHO) will classify the artificial sweetener aspartame as “possibly carcinogenic” in the future. What this means for consumers.

Whether in sweets, light products, soft or energy drinks – artificial sweeteners such as aspartame are found in numerous processed foods. For many consumers, sweeteners are also on the daily menu as a low-calorie alternative to sugar. After all, aspartame is over 200 times sweeter than regular white sugar. However, the artificial sweetener does not seem to be healthier. Rather, the World Health Organization (WHO) could soon classify aspartame as “possibly carcinogenic,” as insiders told Reuters news agency. Here you can find out what this means for consumers and which foods you should better avoid in the future.

Sugar Substitutes: Should You Avoid Aspartame?

Aspartame, also labeled on products as food additive E591, is found in many different products. The artificial sweetener is contained in cosmetics such as toothpaste, but also in cough syrup or vitamin tablets. However, aspartame is most commonly used in the following foods:

  • Zero and Light products
  • soft drinks
  • jam
  • chewing gum
  • Dairy products

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Scientists have already found out in the past that artificial sweeteners such as saccharin, suclarose or aspartame are harmful to the body. Accordingly, various studies have shown that the sugar substitutes lead to a change in the microbiome in the intestine. In a large-scale analysis, Israeli researchers even concluded that the consumption of sugar substitutes affects the body’s ability to regulate blood pressure levels. But although studies repeatedly find a connection, it has not yet been clearly proven that sweeteners actually increase the risk of cancer. The Cancer Information Service has also given the all-clear so far.

Sweeteners: should consumers avoid aspartame?

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) is behind the current reassessment by the World Health Organization (WHO). However, according to the German Cancer Research Center, anyone who consumes aspartame in normal amounts need not worry. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the Federal Office for Risk Assessment (BfR) currently classify aspartame as harmless for human consumption within certain limits on the basis of detailed safety assessments.

You could take a dose of around 40 milligrams per kilogram of body weight and day without hesitation. “An adult weighing 70 kilograms would have to drink 4.5 liters of a soft drink with 600 milligrams of aspartame per liter per day to reach the limit,” explains the cancer information service. The new classification by the World Health Organization (WHO) therefore only means that aspartame can possibly cause cancer – but you would have to eat large amounts to do so.

Artificial sweeteners aren’t clearly harmful, but they’re not beneficial either

But: The artificial sweeteners are still not suitable for losing weight. Even if aspartame is not clearly associated with cancer, the sugar substitute has been shown to have a harmful effect on the microbiome and on the feeling of satiety in the past. “It is to be hoped that the new classification will be received calmly and will not lead consumers to switch from sweeteners to sugar. There is no solid reason to actively avoid sweeteners, but there is also no reason to actively recommend sweeteners. The benefit is small, the damage cannot be clearly demonstrated,” explains Dr. Stefan Kabisch from the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin opposite the Science Media Center Germany.

“It is important for consumers to keep sugar consumption as low as possible and, above all, to drink sugar-free, unsweetened variants such as water and unsweetened tea and only consume sweeteners in moderation. Science is encouraged to conduct more studies on the effects of sweetener consumption in general – not just aspartame – in humans,” Dr. Anne Christin Meyer-Gerspach and Dr. Bettina Wölnerhanssen, Co-Heads of Metabolic Research St. Clara Research, St. Claraspital Basel (Switzerland) agree.

This article only contains general information on the respective health topic and is therefore not intended for self-diagnosis, treatment or medication. In no way does it replace a visit to the doctor. Unfortunately, our editorial team cannot answer individual questions about clinical pictures.


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