Over the years claims have been made that artificial sweeteners are associated with cancer. However what does the scientific evidence suggest?
Studies in the early 1970s on laboratory rats made a connection between Saccharine usage and bladder cancer. As such, the U.S. Congress ordered that more studies needed to be done and that all packaging with Saccharine needed to have the following health warning: “Use of this product may be hazardous to your health. This product contains saccharin, which has been determined to cause cancer in laboratory animals.” However subsequent studies showed that these results are only relevant in rats and not humans due to a different mechanism in the body. Following this evidence, Sacharinne was removed from the U.S. National Toxycology Program carcinogen list in 2000.
In 1981, Aspartame was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) after a large amount of studies showed it did not cause cancer. In 2005, a laboratory study in rats found that very high doses of Aspartame (equivalent to between 8 to 2,081 cans of diet soda per day) were linked to more lymphomas and leukemias, although there were inconsistencies in the findings and this was not supported by human studies. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) analysed Diet and Health data from over half a million retirees, which concluded that there was no association between increased Aspartame consumption and the development of brain cancer, lymphoma or leukemia.
Since then other artificial sweeteners have come to market such as Acesulfame Potassium (also known as Ace-k), Sucralose and Neotame, of which hundreds of studies have shown there is no evidence that these sweeteners cause cancer in humans.