Just an addendum to my last post on Aspartame. It always pays to take the time to read the underlying research – sometimes it doesn’t even support the argument that the researchers themselves are desperate to make – and so the Aspartame story continues …
Following my last article, a colleague sent me a link to a site talking about the evils of Aspartame. It relied primarily on the Italian study by Soffritti et al (that you can read for yourself here) which is the study that is typically used to argue that Aspartame causes cancer. They found that feeding Aspartame to rats caused cancer – but with some rather critical caveats. I’m going to review their research with a fine-tooth comb to show that when the authors refer to ‘low-dose’ in the title of their paper … well, that’s rather far from the truth.
More importantly, I’m going to show that they have proven conversely (not that they say a word about it) that in moderate doses, Aspartame does not cause cancer in rats. For the moment we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that we humans are equally at risk as rats – although it can be argued otherwise.
The researchers make the point that they found a a “significant dose-related increase … in lymphomas/leukemias in the 2,000ppm group.”
The key words here are “dose-related” and “2,000ppm”. So, what do they mean? The first term means that rats do not get cancer at lower doses (in this study: 400ppm), indeed at this dose the cancer rates were the same as for those given no Aspartame. So, we know it’s all about dose, which is great news. It would be much more concerning if just exposure, irrespective of dose, was dangerous.
The magic words here are “dose-related”
Second, what kind of dose does 2,000ppm equate to in humans? The authors say that an intake of 2,000ppm equals 100mg/kg of body weight. So, for a 70kg person this would equate to consuming 7,000mg of Aspartame a day.
A dose of 400ppm, the authors tell us, equates to 20mg/kg of body weight, or an intake of 1400mg a day for our 70kg person. This is the level that showed no significant increase in cancer rates – i.e. no risk.
How many cans of diet Coke, or the like, are we talking? Well … there are 185mg of Aspartame in a can … so this research argues that it is safe to consume 7 cans of Diet Coke a day (let’s assume it’s the only artificial sweetener you’re consuming for the moment). What level causes cancer – yes, the title gives it away – 37!
Indeed it could be that more than 7 are quite safe, as the shift occurs at some point unknown between 7 cans a day and 37 cans a day.
The authors did note a possible increase in cancer rates in rats that had prenatal intake of Aspartame, but provide no statistical analysis of this so I can only assume the finding was not statistically significant.
So, there you have it. The best research used to raise concerns about Aspartame is also telling us that at 7 cans a day, cancer is not a risk (less for children, work it out from their weight). I’m not, however, going to back away from my advice though, that we should keep to less than 7 cans a week … better safe than sorry … and, maybe, avoid during pregnancy.
And we need to keep watching this space, but just watch the news. If those American lawyers can find any basis for a class action against Coke, they will be in and at it before you can say ‘the real thing’.
PS If anyone can find some quality research on the proven risks of Aspartame, please send it to me so I can review it and post on it. If you hear nothing from me then you know there’s still no good evidence out there of any risk with Aspartame in moderation.
PPS I receive no consideration from any organisation for my writings on Aspartame, I just get concerned when people tout opinions, or poor research, as good science.