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Aspartame linked to cancer: study

By Chris V. Thangham     Jun 26, 2007 in Health
Italian researchers at the Ramazzini Foundation in Bologna, Italy find aspartame on rats causes leukemia, lymphoma and breast cancer. FDA and “Equal” manufacturer dismissed the Italian study's claims.
Morando Soffritti of the Ramazzini Foundation in Bologna, Italy, and colleagues tested aspartame on rats, and found it causes leukemia, lymphoma and breast cancer.
Aspartame is the name for an artificial, non-saccharide sweetener, aspartyl-phenylalanine-1-methyl ester; i.e., the methyl ester of the dipeptide of the amino acids aspartic acid and phenylalanine.
This sweetener is marketed under a number of trademark names, including Equal, NutraSweet, Canderel, and is an ingredient of approximately 6,000 consumer foods and beverages sold worldwide. It is commonly used in diet soft drinks, and is often provided as a table condiment.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), on the other hand says there is no need for worries, and doesn’t need an urgent review on the safety aspects of aspartame.
A US Consumer group called for a review after the Italian researchers published a new study showing aspartame, widely found in soft drinks, might cause leukemia, lymphoma and breast cancer in rats.
Centre for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) executive director Michael Jacobson said the same Italian foundation did an earlier experiment which showed the same results.
Aspartame is used by Equal, NutraSweet, Canderel; they are mostly used by diet soft drinks and also come in packets to be used for coffee, tea or on food.
Morando Soffritti of the Ramazzini Foundation in Bologna, Italy, and colleagues studied more than 4,000 rats and when they were fed by high doses of the sweetener raised the likelihood of several types of cancer.
"On the basis of the present findings, we believe that a review of the current regulations governing the use of aspartame cannot be delayed," Soffritti's team wrote in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, which is published by the US National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
"This review is particularly urgent with regard to aspartame-containing beverages, heavily consumed by children."
FDA spokesman Michael Herndon responded and said the agency has not yet reviewed this study. Their conclusions are not consistent with the large number of FDA studies on aspartame including five previously conducted negative chronic carcinogenicity studies.
"Therefore, at this time, FDA finds no reason to alter its previous conclusion that aspartame is safe as a general purpose sweetener in food."
Jacobson said researchers in previous studies all killed rats at the age of two years.
Allowing the rats to live longer may have been a better way to assess the natural risk of cancer, he said.
The CSPI said the Acceptable Daily Intake of aspartame in the United States was 50 mg per kilogram of body weight, equivalent to a 20 kg child drinking 2.5 cans of diet soft drink a day, or a 68 kilogram adult drinking about 7.5 cans a day. The Italian researchers found a cancer risk at double the US Acceptable Daily Intake. Even though not many will drink that much in a day, but still drinking smaller amounts for a long time may pose the same cancer risks.
Merisant which makes Equal like the FDA dismissed the Italian claims.
"The safety of aspartame has been confirmed by regulatory authorities in more than 100 countries, including the US Food and Drug Administration, Health Canada, and the European Commission's Scientific Committee on Food, as well as by experts with the United Nations' Food and Agricultural Organization and World Health Organization."
Jacobson, CSPI said people shouldn’t panic but they should stop buying soft drinks and foods containing aspartame.
I don’t use any artificial sweetener, just plain sugar in smaller amounts. If you are using Equal, NutraSweet and Canderel, just be careful. Since FDA won’t be doing any verification and the manufacturers just denying instead of proving that it is safe, one should use caution in drinking soft drinks made of aspartame. You can also use cinnamon as sweetener, which is healthy and safe.
Also read the side effects of Aspartame, causes more than 92 side effects.
What do you think about this study?
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