Cancer: Artificial sweetener ‘consumed by millions’ linked to greater risk of cancer

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Cancer is a leading cause of death around the globe, claiming more than 166,000 lives in the UK every year. But by raising awareness of the triggers, researchers are confident many such cases could be averted. Confusingly, some of the products aimed at improving health may trigger inflammation associated with the disease. According to new research, artificial sweeteners such as aspartame may be a risk factor.

Sugar poses well-known health risks, so artificial sweeteners were created in a bid to circumnavigate these.

The synthetic alternatives have long been considered part of a healthy diet, and are therefore recommended for diabetics.

But a recent body of research has raised concerns about their association with cancer.

The new study, conducted by the Sorbonne Paris Nord University, France, has suggested some artificial sweeteners are associated with an increased risk of cancer.

READ MORE: Cancer: Up to 70% of cancer patients experience dyspnoea – the ‘frightening’ symptom

To evaluate the carcinogenicity of artificial sweeteners, researchers looked at data from more than 102,000 French adults.

Data concerning the participant’s artificial sweetener intake was gathered using 24-hour dietary records.

By looking at diagnosis information during the study’s follow-up period, the researchers were able to conduct a statistical analysis to investigate the association between artificial sweetener intake and cancer risk.

Findings revealed that participants consuming larger quantities of artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and acesulfame-L had a higher risk of overall cancer compared to non-consumers.

Higher risks were observed for breast cancer and obesity-related cancers.

The authors wrote: “Our findings do not support the use of artificial sweetener as safe alternatives for sugar in foods or beverages and provide important and novel controversies about their potential adverse health effects.

“While these results need to be replicated in other large-scale cohorts and underlying mechanisms clarified by experimental studies, they provide important and novel insights for the ongoing reevaluation of food additive sweeteners by the European Food Author and other health agencies globally.”

When broken down in the gut, sweeteners may disrupt processes that are vital for neutralising harmful toxins from bacteria that live there, according to previous research.

This could lead to a build-up of harmful toxins which may, in turn, cause low-level inflammation and ultimately cause chronic diseases.

The epidemiological structure of the study means the findings are unable to confirm a causal link between artificial sweeteners and cancer.

What’s more, the European Food Safety Authority has previously dismissed studies that have produced similar results.

In 2021, Cancer Research UK released a statement in response to growing evidence of the link between aspartame and cancer.

The statement read: “Artificial sweeteners such as aspartame don’t cause cancer.“

You might have seen stories about artificial sweeteners and cancer on social media or the news. But the best evidence in humans does not show a link.”

The health body added that the European Food Safety Authority deemed artificial sweeteners safe when consumed within the daily limits.

“These limits are more than most people would have one one day,” explains the health body. “For aspartame, the daily limit is equal to 12 cans of diet pop.”

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