Diet Coke sweetener Aspartame to be declared ‘Cancer Risk’

Aspartame, a sweetener commonly used in Diet Coke, is reportedly set to be declared a cancer risk. But how have Asians reacted?

Diet Coke sweetener Aspartame to be declared 'Cancer Risk' f

"surely you would have to drink loads for it to be bad"

According to reports, aspartame is set to be listed as a cancer risk.

The sweetener, which is commonly used in Diet Coke and other products, will reportedly be listed as “possibly carcinogenic to humans” for the first time by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) cancer research arm.

Aspartame is 200 times sweeter than sugar so it gives the taste without the calories.

It is found in many well-known drinks such as Diet Coke, Sprite and Irn Bru.

The ingredient is also in Extra’s sugar-free gum, Muller light yoghurts and even Hartleys sugar-free jelly, among 6,000 other food products.

Aspartame has been used for decades and approved by food safety bodies.

Diet Coke sweetener Aspartame to be declared 'Cancer Risk'

Due to a huge push to crack down on sugar, there is a mass usage of artificial alternatives. As a result, aspartame has become a mainstay of many people’s diets.

IARC has been reviewing approximately 1,300 studies on aspartame and cancer.

It is reported that an official announcement will be made on July 14, 2023.

IARC uses four possible classifications:

  • Group 1 – Carcinogenic to humans
  • Group 2A – Probably carcinogenic to humans
  • Group 2B – Possibly carcinogenic to humans
  • Group 3- Not classifiable

The news has left some people extremely worried about their health.

Ishaan Gupta said: “I switched to Diet Coke because it is supposed to be healthier than regular Coke, now after hearing this, I’m very worried.

“I’m thinking about giving up Diet Coke altogether.”

Jasleen Kaur said: “To be honest, I never heard of it (aspartame) but this news is quite scary.”

These concerns were echoed on social media.

Claiming that family members have been warning her for years, one netizen said:

“My dad and brother couldn’t WAIT to dunk on my head about the probed research saying aspartame in Diet Coke is carcinogenic, they’ve been harassing me for years saying this.”

Meanwhile, others were more sceptical about the news.

Ajit Singh said: “Aspartame has been around for ages and this has only been said now, I think they (WHO) are just trying to scare us.”

Padma Malhotra explained: “It’s only reports, let’s see what the official report says when it comes out. For now, I’m going to continue to drink Diet Coke and Pepsi Max.”

Akash Manga stated: “If this is true, surely you would have to drink loads for it (aspartame) to be bad for you.”

Despite the concerns, some experts have criticised the leaked ruling, with some even calling it “dumb”.

Television medic and GP Dr Amir Khan said there is no need for citizens to suddenly change their eating and drinking habits.

He said: “The key here is not to panic, we’re still waiting for more data on this.

“It’s important to say that aspartame is one of the most researched substances in the world and its never been conclusively linked to cancer but researchers have been asking for more long-term data on its side effects.

“Don’t panic, continue what you’re doing and let’s wait for the information.”

Diet Coke sweetener Aspartame to be declared 'Cancer Risk' 2

Current recommendation for safe daily aspartame consumption are 50mg per kg of body weight (USA) and 40mg per kg of body weight (UK).

This means the British recommendation is approximately 2,800mg for a 70kg adult.

Given that the average Diet Coke can contains 180mg of real aspartame, the British Dietetic Association outlines how an adult would need to consume 15 cans a day before being at risk of any health consequences from the sweetener.

Once the IARC report is officially published, safe consumption levels will be determined by a separate body, the Joint WHO and Food and Agriculture Organisation’s Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA).

JECFA is also reviewing aspartame use and will announce its findings on July 14.

These could then be adapted by national health bodies.

Cancer Research UK states that artificial sweeteners such as aspartame do not cause cancer.

Meanwhile, health and food regulators have repeatedly declared them safe following “rigorous” assessments.

Industry bodies have also said the IARC review consisted of “widely discredited research” which “contradicts decades of high-quality evidence”.

UK food safety regulators have said they will examine the JEFCA report before deciding “whether any further actions are needed”.

Currently, food products containing aspartame must include this information on the label due to the danger the substance poses to people with phenylketonuria, a rare inherited blood condition.

Phenylketonuria sufferers cannot process phenylalanine — one of the chemical building blocks of aspartame.

If people with phenylketonuria consume phenylalanine, it can build up in their blood, eventually damaging their vital organs.

It is a rare condition, with only about one in 10,000 people in the UK having it.

Similar WHO-backed cancer warnings slapped on red meat, working overnight and using mobile phones have faced criticism for sparking needless alarm over hard-to-avoid substances or situations.

Dhiren is a journalism graduate with a passion for gaming, watching films and sports. He also enjoys cooking from time to time. His motto is to “Live life one day at a time.”

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