Experts highlight need for reducing artificial sweetener consumption

Excelsior Correspondent
SRINAGAR, July 17: In a recent assessment by the World Health Organization (WHO), concerns have been raised about the potential carcinogenic effects of artificial sweeteners, specifically highlighting aspartame. Experts now are emphasizing that all artificial sweeteners carry risks of causing cancer, with even greater dangers for individuals with diabetes.
Surgical Oncologist Dr Qazi Ashraf, while talking to Excelsior, addressed the issue, stating, “All artificial sweeteners have carcinogenic effects. However, when consumed at acceptable levels, they are considered safe.”
Dr. Ashraf also pointed out that there is a lack of convincing epidemiological studies demonstrating a direct and unequivocal association between the consumption of sweeteners like aspartame, at acceptable levels, and the development of cancer.
It’s important to note that the WHO had previously stated that, while safety is generally not a major concern for aspartame at commonly used doses, potential effects exist that require further investigation through improved and extensive studies. The Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives is responsible for conducting risk assessments to determine the likelihood of specific harm, such as cancer, occurring under certain conditions and levels of exposure.
Endocrinologist Dr Shariq Masoodi from SKIMS elaborated on the topic, discussing the drawbacks of energy drinks that often contain artificial sweeteners. He mentioned increased heart rate, dehydration, sleep problems, and addiction as potential side effects.
Referring to a study published in the International Journal of Cancer, Dr Masoodi highlighted that individuals with diabetes who consume higher amounts of artificial sweeteners are at a greater risk of developing various types of cancer.
It’s worth noting that aspartame, a low-caloric artificial sweetener, is commonly used in products such as Diet Coke, Pepsi Zero Sugar, and other diet sodas as a substitute for sugar. The intention behind its use is to help consumers manage body weight and reduce the risk of non-communicable diseases.
Dr Nisar-ul-Hassan, the president of the Doctor’s Association of Kashmir (DAK), has also drawn attention to the potential drawbacks of using sugar substitutes like aspartame for weight control purposes. He emphasized that available research indicates replacing sugar with non-sugar sweeteners does not offer significant long-term benefits in terms of weight management.
Dr Nisar highlighted that these artificial sweeteners have been associated with an increased likelihood of developing diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease, and even a higher risk of mortality.
Dr Nisar stressed the lack of proven health advantages associated with aspartame and cautioned against the consumption of diet drinks. Instead, he recommended reducing overall dietary sweetness as a healthier alternative approach.