[PHNUTR-L] Rat Study Links Aspartame to Cancer
Kathrynne Holden, MS, RD
fivestar at nutritionucanlivewith.com
Tue Aug 2 15:41:01 PDT 2005
Colleagues, the following is FYI and does not necessarily reflect my own
opinion. I have no further knowledge of the topic.
Rat Study Links Aspartame to Cancer
Lymphoma, Leukemia in Rats Fed Sweetener; Industry Group Says Aspartame
By Daniel DeNoon
WebMD Medical News Reviewed By Michael Smith, MD
on Thursday, July 28, 2005
July 28, 2005 -- A study of rats links low doses of aspartame -- the
sweetener in NutraSweet, Equal, and thousands of consumer products -- to
leukemia and lymphoma.
But food industry officials point out that many other studies have found
no link between aspartame and cancer.
The rats in the study were fed various doses of aspartame throughout
their lives. In female but not male rats, lymphoma and leukemia were
significantly associated with daily aspartame doses as low as 20
milligrams (mg) per kilogram (kg) of body weight. And there was a trend
toward these cancers at doses as low as 4 mg/kg of body weight.
To reach a dose of 20 mg/kg, a 140-pound woman would need to drink three
cans of diet soda a day. A 180-pound man would need to drink four cans
of diet soda a day.
And diet soda isn't the only source of aspartame. The sweetener is in
thousands of products, ranging from yogurt to over-the-counter medicines.
The average person consumes about 2 or 3 mg/kg aspartame each day.
However, that figure goes way up for children and young women.
The study comes from an independent research team led by Morando
Soffritti, MD, scientific director of the European Ramazzini Foundation
of Oncology and Environmental Sciences in Bologna, Italy.
"What I am recommending is for healthy children and women -- if they do
not have diabetes -- to avoid consumer use of aspartame," Soffritti
tells WebMD. "We cannot continue to use aspartame in 6,000 types of
products, soft drinks, yogurt, and whatever."
Consumer Group Reacts
Consumer Group Reacts
A consumer watchdog group, the Center for Science in the Public
Interest, has called for FDA action. At a minimum, the FDA should start
its own studies and warn consumers of the potential danger, says CSPI
Executive Director Michael F. Jacobson, PhD.
"The U.S. government really should analyze this study very carefully. If
it is accepted as top quality, it could lead to a ban on aspartame,"
Jacobson tells WebMD. "I think a lot of companies are going to see the
writing on the wall from this study and switch to newer artificial
sweeteners. Meanwhile, I think consumers should switch to Splenda, the
sweetener known as sucralose."
But Jacobson urges consumers not to panic.
"The risk to an individual is quite small," he says. "So people
shouldn't fear that if they have one diet soda a day they are going to
develop cancer. And I must say, the one qualm I have about the study is
they found an increased risk of cancer at such a low level of exposure.
If aspartame were that potent a carcinogen, I wonder if we wouldn't be
seeing a real epidemic of cancer."
Soffritti has presented his findings to the European Food Safety
Authority. In its 2002 review of aspartame safety, the EFSA found no
cause for alarm. It promises that the new data will get a "high
"EFSA does not consider it appropriate to suggest any change in
consumers' diets relative to aspartame on the basis of the information
it currently has," the EFSA announced on July 14.
Low-Calorie Industry: No Cause for Alarm
Low-Calorie Industry: No Cause for Alarm
The new findings fly in the face of all previous studies of aspartame
safety, says the Calorie Control Council, an international association
representing the low-calorie and reduced-fat food and beverage industry.
The Soffritti study findings "are not consistent with the extensive
scientific research and regulatory reviews done on aspartame," the CCC
says in a statement. "Aspartame has been used by hundreds of millions of
consumers around the world for over 20 years. With billions of man-years
of safe use, there is no indication of an association between aspartame
and cancer in humans."
The CCC points to four long-term studies on aspartame that failed to
find any relationship between aspartame and any form of cancer.
It's true that reports linking brain and breast cancer to aspartame had
little merit, says blood-cancer specialist Martin R. Weihrauch, MD, of
the University of Cologne, Germany. Last year, Weihrauch reported on his
analysis of all published studies on artificial sweeteners in the Annals
"The entire stuff about brain tumors and breast cancer was really
nonsense, Weihrauch tells WebMD.
So what does he think of the new study linking aspartame to leukemia and
"I think it is shocking news," he says. "However, the data have to be
carefully reviewed and the study redone. Not because of their methods,
probably they are fine. But for a study like this, which brings out data
that would make a big change in what consumers do every day, it
certainly has to be confirmed. It is worrisome."
What Happened to the Rats
Soffritti's study findings may be a first report, but the study was
quite thorough. It looked at 1,800 rats fed various doses of aspartame
-- or no aspartame at all -- from age 8 weeks until death. When the
animals died, the researchers did a thorough autopsy.
They found that:
* A daily dose of 20 milligrams of aspartame per kilogram of body
weight was linked to lymphomas and leukemias in female -- but not male
* Rats that got daily doses of as little as 4 mg/kg aspartame got
lymphomas and leukemias 62% more often than those that got no aspartame,
but this finding could have been due to chance.
* A few brain tumors were seen in rats fed aspartame, while those
who did not get the sweetener did not get brain tumors. But this
finding, too, could have been due to chance.
The findings are scheduled to appear in the European Journal of Oncology.
SOURCES: Soffritti, M. European Journal of Oncology, 2005; vol 10.
Weihrauch, M.R. and Diehl, V. Annals of Oncology, 2004; vol 15: pp
1460-1465. News release, Center for Science in the Public Interest. News
release, European Food Safety Authority. News release, European
Ramazzini Foundation for Oncology and Environmental Sciences. News
release, Calorie Control Council. FDA. The National Toxicology Program.
NutraSweet web site. Morando Soffritti, MD, scientific director,
European Ramazzini Foundation for Oncology and Environmental Sciences,
Bologna, Italy. Michael F. Jacobson, PhD, executive director, Center for
Science in the Public Interest. Martin R. Weihrauch, MD, research
fellow, University of Cologne, Germany.
Kathrynne Holden, MS, RD < fivestar at nutritionucanlivewith.com >
"Ask the Parkinson Dietitian" http://www.parkinson.org/
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