LivingCan artificial sweeteners cause cancer?

Can artificial sweeteners cause cancer?


Are artificial sweeteners bad for your health? Many of them get a bad press, like aspartame, but other sugar substitutes aren’t exempt from confusion either. Is its consumption harmful or imperceptible? Now, a team of experts from the French National Institute of Health have carried out a study whose results cast more controversy on the negative balance of artificial sweeteners by finding a link between artificial sweeteners and cancer.

Since the 1940s, studies have linked the widespread use of artificial sweeteners to cancer in laboratory mice, but in recent decades, the studies have been dismissed as inconclusive for dealing with rodents and not human patients.

The new data

The researchers analyzed more than a decade of health data from 102,865 French volunteers (from the NutriNet-Santé project started in 2009). Three quarters of the participants were women and their average age was 42 years.

The data from this study offer a little more detail than general observational studies, as every six months, study participants complete three non-consecutive 24-hour dietary records that list everything they ate that day, including all information from the Commercial brand. Because artificial sweeteners are routinely added to thousands of different foods , it’s difficult to accurately quantify consumption, so this study offers a reasonably robust way to track intake of specific food additives, experts say in their study published in the journal PlOS Medicine.

About 37% of the participants knowingly consumed artificial sweeteners at least once a day. At the end of the study, 3,358 had been diagnosed with cancer. Of these, 982 were breast cancers, 403 were prostate cancers, and 2,032 were obesity-related cancers.

They found that the consumption of artificial sweeteners was associated with an increased risk of cancer. Specifically, the scientists found that those who consumed any type of artificial sweetener were more likely to develop cancer than those who did not.

In particular, aspartame and acesulfame-K were associated with an increased risk of cancer. Thus, those who consumed the highest amounts (79 mg per day) of artificial sweeteners had a 13% increased risk of cancer overall compared to those who took none . Increased risks of breast cancer (22% increased risk for aspartame) and obesity-related cancers were seen, the scientists said.

According to the authors, “Our findings do not support the use of artificial sweeteners as safe alternatives to sugar in foods or beverages and provide important new information to address controversies about their potential adverse health effects. While these results need to be replicated in Other large-scale cohorts and underlying mechanisms elucidated by experimental studies offer sufficient evidence for the ongoing re-evaluation of food additive sweeteners by the European Food Safety Authority and other health agencies globally.”

What artificial sweeteners are commonly used in the EU?

Saccharin was discovered in 1879 and can be found in fruit juices, candies, jams, and cookies, particularly those labeled “low-fat.”

Aspartame was approved by the FDA in 1981 and is commonly added to soft drinks, energy drinks, desserts, candy, gum, and weight-management products.

Acesulfame potassium , approved in 1988, is used in soft drinks and protein shakes and is added to medications to make them more palatable.

Sucralose was approved in 1998 and is used for virtually the same products as aspartame.


Charlotte Debras et al. Artificial sweeteners and cancer risk: Results from the NutriNet-Santé population-based cohort study. Published: March 24, 2022 PlOS Medicine. DOI:

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