Aspartame: Is it really cancerous?

As a fan of Diet Coke, I have always vouched for its zero calories and no fat product over its companion, coca cola. The carbonation and sweet taste have always brought my taste buds pleasure. However, I have always been curious as to how Diet Coke is able to taste so good with a non-existent calorie count on the label. I recently discovered the answer to my curiosity; the product used to create such appealing taste is a controversial artificial sweetener known as aspartame.

Aspartame has recently been labeled as a potentially cancerous product, turning many away from products where its name is shown on the ingredients label. It is frowned upon by household health freaks, but are their concerns valid?

Aspartame is an economic blessing for large brand producers. According to the American Cancer Society, the artificial sweetener is much more effective in producing a sweeter taste with less quantity than using actual sugar. Therefore, because a small amount of aspartame produces the same taste as an exponential amount of actual sugar, the calories within the product decreases dramatically. Naturally, from the mindset of a giant producer such as the Coca-Cola Company, this product is appealing financially. However, as much as aspartame is beneficial to Coca-Cola Company, it is potentially just as much as a hazard to the health of all who consume it.


As aspartame became more and more popular for industries looking to save money by mimicking sugar with its more efficient counterpart, researchers became curious about the side effects for this artificial sweetener. The American Cancer Society article refers to two studies done to determine the potential health risks involved in consuming aspartame. The article refers to two studies one experimental and the other correlational.


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Within the experimental study, researchers used rats and gave them copious amounts of aspartame to see the effects it had on their health. According to the article, there was no link between the rats’ health and the amount of aspartame they were exposed to.

As for the correlational studies observing humans, the majority of studies have shown that there is no cancerous effect of aspartame. A study in 1970 shows a potential correlation between the two, but confounding third variables such as the diets of those studied in 1970 versus 2016, make the argument shaky at best. The article in the American Cancer Society website makes reference to two large studies that examined upwards of 500,000 adults where the same result was concluded, aspartame most likely, since nothing is definite, not causing cancer.

As a result, I strongly urge people who refuse to drink Diet Coke and consume products labeled with aspartame as an ingredient to think twice about writing these products off as unhealthy. Unlike the correlation between lung cancer and smoking as discussed in class, as of now, there is no definite link between cancer and aspartame. Therefore, being a rational person, I will continue to drink and enjoy my favorite soda without worrying about the faux health risks of aspartame.


4 thoughts on “Aspartame: Is it really cancerous?

  1. Matthew O'Brien

    I will preface this by noting that I drink an absolutely ridiculous amount of diet coke daily (about 200 oz). I have noticed more than a few people discuss this issue in their blogs recently and the consensus seems to be very similar with regards to the cancer risk. Unfortunately, there are many more conditions that can be considered “unhealthy” besides cancer that we need to look out for. Take this article written by a highly qualified pharmacist about the potential mechanisms linking aspartame to diabetes or this article linking it to depression. Cancer is one potential bullet dodged, but perhaps we should “write-off” diet coke if these other studies show conclusive causal correlations between aspartame and very bad diseases. I know how difficult the stuff can be to give up and understand why so many people try to defend it with this rat study! But denial will only bring regret one day.

  2. Julia R Martini

    I agree with Natalie Burns in that I never knew there was a problem with diet coke. When I went through my addicted to soda stage, I was always encouraged to drink diet instead of regular because of the obvious low calories and basically no fat. Instead, I gave up soda all together which makes a huge difference on your health! Diet coke may not be bad for you but it is definitely not good for a persons health. I’m writing a post on if sugar drinks decay your teeth, you should check it out! This is one of the articles I’m using as a source. Diet coke may not cause cancer but it causes many other problems!

  3. Natalie Elizabeth Burns

    I liked this article because I had no idea that there was an issue with diet coke. I recently started to substitute it for regular coke because I knew it was “healthier”. However, I had no idea about this potential risk. However, I found this article which backs up your point about how there is no definite link with cancer however, it doesn’t not mean diet soda cannot have other effects on our digestive track and body. I’m wondering if they’ll find a confounding variable between aspartame and cancer.

  4. Rachel Sara Anton

    I really appreciate this post because of how many arguments I get in with my friends over diet soda. I always ask them why they think it’s so bad, and they never have a solid response. I am also a fan of diet coke and am often criticized for putting such “horrible chemicals” into my body. It’s really interesting how mob mentality can lead a whole group of people to believe that aspartame is cancerous without doing any research for themselves. We as people hear one thing and automatically store it as a fact in our brain. When it comes to diet soda, however, I will not fall into the trap of making assumptions until I see real proof through studies on studies on studies. Here is an article on some risks regarding diet soda that are actually understandable. Maybe those risks will convince me to reduce my intake.

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