14 July 2023
International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and The Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) has today (14 July) published a joint evaluation of the potential health risks from the artificial sweetener, aspartame.
IARC has reviewed and assessed, for the first time, the evidence relating to potential carcinogenic effects of aspartame as part of its Monographs programme. It found limited evidence that aspartame is carcinogenic in humans; the evidence from animal studies and experimental studies was also limited. Therefore, it classified aspartame as ‘possibly carcinogenic’ (group 2B using the IARC Monographs Hazard Classification).
Simultaneously JECFA reviewed the general health and nutrition risks of aspartame at usual consumption levels. It found insufficient evidence linking aspartame to the risk of cancer or other diseases, such as Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. JECFA concluded that the previously established acceptable daily intake of 0-40mg/ kg body weight should not change. This is the equivalent of between 9 to 14 cans of Diet Coke a day, assuming no other intake from other sources.
Our Cancer Prevention recommendation to limit consumption of sugar sweetened drinks, and to drink mostly water and unsweetened drinks, is consistent and remains appropriate in light of these evaluations. Following this, along with our other Recommendations, will give people the best chance of avoiding a preventable cancer.
We support the report’s recommendations that future research should focus on well-conducted studies to better understand the relationship between aspartame and cancer risk and for more experimental studies to explore potential biological pathways. In order to strengthen our understanding of how diet, nutrition, physical activity and body weight influence cancer risk, we will continue to support, and advocate for, better research in these areas.