Everytime I drink something with aspartame
in it, I can’t help but worry to myself: AM I DRINKING CANCER? Hey everyone, Laci Green here for DNews. Artificial
sweeteners have been a hotbed of scientific debate for decades. There’s so much to be
said about it — but here’s a quick roundup of a few things you should know about the
most common artificial sweeteners. Saccharin AKA Sweet n Low was the first artificial
sweetener discovered waaay back in 1879 while scientists were formulating chemical dyes
from coal tar. I know: YUM! In the 70s, studies came out finding that saccharin caused bladder
cancer in rats – and so the government required a cancer warning on the label. They tried
to take it off the market, but the diet industry was making big bucks and weren’t gonna have
any of that. Fast forward to the 90s and studies begin to suggest that the bladder cancer effect
is ONLY in rodents, not humans, and by 2000, the warning label was removed. However, the
Center for Science in the Public Interest, which is a non-profit watchdog group, has
saccharin on their “avoid” list. Saccharin has lost a lot of its popularity because of
the controversy. The most common artificial sweetener on the
market today is sucralose AKA Splenda. There’s a lot of talk about how Splenda is unsafe
and hasn’t been tested…but since its discovery in 1976, it has been the subject of over 100
long and short-term animal and human studies. And except for a couple highly questioned
studies, no ill effects have been found, so long as you aren’t eating a tub of sucralose
for dinner. The FDA approved it in 1998 and the CSPI also agrees it’s a safe, non-carcinogenic
alternative to sugar. Lastly, the biggie: aspartame. It’s found
in sooo many products these days, from to drinks, to candy, gum, jam, processed foods.
Aspartame came about in the 60’s when scientists were looking for ulcer treatments. It’s been
widely studied since then. The main things you should know is that the cancer concerns
come mostly from a set of high profile studies done in Italy where they fed extremely high
amounts of aspartame to rats throughout their lifespan. The rats developed blood and breast
cancers as well as kidney tumors, which are extremely rare in the breed of rat used. However,
the FDA and the EFSA both rejected the studies on the (rather vague) grounds that they “lacked
important data” and approved Aspartame anyway. As for studies on people? The largest study
was done by the National Cancer Institute examining cancer rates in a half million adults.
Between groups that did and did not consume products with aspartame, there was no increased
risk of cancer for those that did. The watchdog group argues that this study was incomplete:
it didn’t include the very elderly, nor people who had consumed aspartame since childhood.
Aspartame intake was also self reported – which is a serious flaw when you consider the fact
that a lot of the time people don’t know it’s in their food. The CSPI gives aspartame it’s
lowest food safety ranking and argues that it is not safe for human consumption. I’ve read lots of reports out of concern for
my own health, and you should too if you’re interested! The bottom line seems to be: sucralose
is the safest for regular consumption. Aspartame and saccharin are more questionable, so if
you’re going to consume them, maybe don’t have too much. Also: if you’re using artificial
sweeteners to lose weight, there’s a STRONG body of research that suggests it doesn’t
help. In fact, across several large studies done at Yale for the National Institute of
Health: people who use artificial sweeteners actually gain weight over time. They’re still
trying to figure out why this happens. Scientists are also just starting to study a relatively
new artificial sweetener touted as a “natural alternative to sugar” called Stevia, or Truvia.
With the limited studies that are out there, it looks like it could be safe, and the CSPI
statements seem more positive about the potential for Stevia. OH MAN. Lotsa facts today! Hope this was useful
to some of you out there. I’m gonna put lots of further reading in the description, check
it out, and let me know what you think about artificial sweeteners in the comments below.
Thanks for joining me, I’ll see you next time!