In our attempt to consume less sugar and eat healthier, we’ve relied on the supposed success of manufactured sweeteners.

Over the years, various health risk claims have been associated with artificial sweeteners.

But these claims haven’t been scientifically proven until now.

A new observational study has discovered a link between artificial sweeteners and cancer.

The study aimed to clarify the association between the most frequently consumed sweeteners (aspartame, acesulfame-K, and sucralose) and cancer risk.

Many products advertised as ‘sugar-free’ or ‘reduced-calorie’ tend to have aspartame as the main sweetening ingredient.

Researchers discovered a 13% higher risk of cancer for people regularly consuming large quantities of artificial sweeteners. From this 13%, they found a higher likelihood of developing breast cancer and obesity-related cancers.

Respected medical authorities such as the FDA regard these sweeteners as safe to consume daily at moderate levels. Therefore, this study could help bring scientifically proven awareness to the public about the adverse effects of consuming artificial sweeteners.

The study’s method

To achieve these results, researchers analysed over 102,000 histories of adults participating in the ongoing NutriNet-Santé study that began collecting data in 2009. Researchers followed the participants data for an average of 7.8 years.

Participants kept 24-hour dietary records that tracked how much sweetener they consumed daily. Researchers then assessed the associations between sweeteners and cancer incidence using specific statistical models for medical research.

They performed analyses on the effects of all artificial sweeteners (the sum of acesulfame-K, aspartame, sucralose, cyclamates, saccharin, steviol glycosides, etc.) and separately to analyse the singular effects of the most popular artificial sweeteners (acesulfame-K, aspartame, sucralose).

Lead author of the study and PH.D candidate at the Université de Paris, Charlotte Debras, comments on why the results are so important:

“Findings from this study are very original since, to our knowledge, no previous cohort study had directly investigated the association between quantitative artificial sweetener intakes per se, from all dietary sources — distinguishing the different types of sweeteners — and cancer risk”

She adds,

“Some observational studies have previously investigated the associations between cancer risk and the consumption of artificially sweetened beverages (used as a proxy) and found an increased risk of cancer, suggesting that artificial sweeteners present in these types of beverages might play a role in the development of cancer. In addition, previous findings in animal models and in vitro / in vivo studies also suggested their carcinogenicity.”

A variety of researchers from the Nutritional Epidemiology Research Team (EREN) of Sorbonne Paris Nord University’s French Institute for Health and Medical Research (INSERM), the Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers (CNAM), and the National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food, and Environment (INRAE) in France conducted the study.

What needs to change?

The study’s authors concluded that these findings provide important insights for the re-evaluation of artificial sweeteners by global health agencies such as the FDA and EFSA.

It is essential to always read nutritional labels and know what kinds of sweeteners you are consuming and how much. Being aware of artificial additives can help you maintain a healthy diet and reduce any adverse health risks.

At RMDM, we consider nutrition the key to our wellbeing. Our Western diet has undoubtedly influenced the increase of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and other significant diseases. Within our holistic approach to healthcare, we recognise our diet’s impact on our health.