The World Health Organization is set to release a frustrating Aspartame report this month that links the artificial sweetener to cancer.
Does Aspartame, the artificial sweetener you probably know as Equal in those little blue packets, cause cancer? A frustrating new report is suggesting a link to cancer, but the report won’t definitively answer that specific little question.
It’s frustrating for two reasons.
First, those of us with Type 2 Diabetes turned to artificial sweeteners after doctors told us how bad sugar is. Artificial sweeteners therefore give you the sweetness without the calories and glucose. Any new claim about an artificial sweetener’s danger leaves us wondering if we should just go back to sugar.
But the second reason this report will be frustrating is the manner in which it collected its data. Reuters recently reported that the World Health Organization’s cancer research agency will label aspartame a possible carcinogen.
A carcinogen causes cancer. Adding possible to it doesn’t really give us much to work with.
Therein lies the problem. This aspartame report doesn’t actually prove it does cause cancer. Instead, this report looks at commonalities among people who have certain cancers. It then suggests that if a good number of people in that category have certain things in common, those certain things might be worth further investigation.
A similar report suggested that artificial sweeteners might cause diabetes. Why? A large number of people with Type 2 Diabetes use artificial sweeteners. Well, sure. We do. We’ve been told to avoid sugar. So of course we’re going to use artificial sweeteners.
Do those sweeteners cause diabetes or is there use an effect of someone being diagnosed with it?
The reports don’t seem to answer that. Frustrating!
So what are we supposed to do now?
I like Diet Coke. Diet Coke is one of I don’t know how many products made with aspartame. I also use cream and sugar in my coffee…although the “sugar” is really in the form of a sugar-free sweetener. At work, we have Splenda, the yellow packets whose primary ingredient is sucralose.
Is it safe? It’s probably as safe as aspartame.
I’m old enough to remember a diet soda called Tab. Remember this spot?
I remember a growing concern about the sweetener used in Tab, saccharin, during the 1970s. The government listed saccharin as a substance “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen” in 1981. The concern then was that laboratory mice given large quantities of sodium saccharin — amounts no reasonable human would ever consume on even their worst day — developed bladder cancer. Scientists seem to say it was more of a cancer risk for men than women. So men largely backed away from those pink packets of Sweet & Low, which contained saccharin.
Tab somehow survived the saccharin scare and continued on until 2020. By then Diet Coke with its aspartame (and better taste) had pretty much strangled it.
Diet Pepsi switched from aspartame to sucralose (the blue packets to the yellow) several years back but eventually went back to aspartame after customer complaints.
Sugary soft drinks don’t seem like a great option. I can only drink so much water; most of the flavor packets designed to make it taste like something other than water also have artificial sweetener.