Aspartame and Cancer

Artificial sweeteners have been growing in popularity due to out roars against natural sugar. It seems as though artificial sweeteners are now everywhere. Most diet drinks use them as an alternative to sweeten the drink without using sugar. In particular, aspartame is one the most popular choices.

aspartame-chemical-structureAspartame is created from the combining of two amino acids, aspartic acid and phenylalanine. It is used in a multitude of products such as Diet Coke and many foods. One of the reasons why aspartame is so commonly used is because it is roughly 200 times sweeter than sugar and therefore much less can be used. Sounds great, right? Not really.

A lot of speculation has been raised about how great of an alternative aspartame truly is. The major discussion going around has to deal with cancer. Does aspartame cause cancer? Does it cause cancer to become more severe? Many of these questions have been discussed and the only way to truly find out is to put it to the test.

As I looked for research on the topic of Aspartame and its relation to cancer I came across an awesome study done in Europe at the Cesare Maltoni Cancer Research Center. Their objective of the study to was to quantify the carcinogenic risk of aspartame from prenatal (12th day of fetal life) until the end of the life of rats. The way they set aspartame-effectsup the experiment was with three groups of around 70-95 Sprague-Dawley rats. One of the groups was the control while the other two groups were administered either 400ppm or 2000ppm of Aspartame in their typical food daily.

The results they received were statistically significant to reject the null hypothesis that aspartame had no effect on cancer in many cases. They found a large dose related increase in malignant tumors in males, especially in the group treated with 2000ppm of aspartame with a p-value less than .01. They also found an increase in the same group of males treated with 2000ppm with lymphomas and leukemia (p<.05). The females in the 2000ppm group also saw an increase in lymphomas and leukemia (p<.01) as well as an increase in mammary cancer (p<.05). These results are very showing from a statistical standpoint! The likely hood of these being a fluke (false positive) is 5%

The problem with this experiment however is that it was performed on rats, and not humans. What happens to rats when administered the levels of aspartame close to the acceptable daily intake of humans, is surely to be questioned. If you wanted to see the effects of drugs on elephants, giving the same dosage to let’s say a human that you would the elephant sounds a bit off to me, don’t you think?

In conclusion, I do believe this experiment was run very well. They randomly allocated the rats and controlled the dosage that each group received very well. Overall, the experiment was run very well overall, and I think that the results should be taken into strong consideration. Until more time passes however and we can do observational studies on humans based on their aspartame intake, I believe it will be hard to find a true answer to this question. Until then, lab rat experiments will be the most telling.

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2 thoughts on “Aspartame and Cancer

  1. Jon Shanfelder

    When I saw “Aspartame” in your title I had to read it. A few months ago when I was at the grocery store I was picking out my favorite yogurt (Yoplait boston creme and orange creme light). I then noticed on the front it said “now with no aspartame.” I wondered what that was and instead of looking it up, I just assumed it was even healthier now and put it in my cart. It is so relieving to know what aspartame is and that I am consuming less of it through yogurt! Here is some more information in aspartame I did not read in your article:

  2. Marielle Concetta Ravally

    I was very interested to read your article. The issue of aspartame’s effects on health is definitely something that needs to be throughly researched considering so many people choose sugar substitutes over sugar, thinking they are healthier. However people rarely research the negative effects of these substitutes. In my own life, I have made the switch to using natural sugar substitutes such as stevia due to the health concerns surrounding aspartame and other artificial sweeteners.
    The study you mentioned involving the rats made me think about the study we talked about in class pertaining to rats’ performance levels and worms. Though there was confounding evidence found in that study as well, it was hard to validate it in regards to humans due to the difference in animal species.

    Here is a list of healthy sugar substitutes that I found!

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