New NIH/NCI Study Confirms Safety of Aspartame

ATLANTA (April 4, 2006) – A new epidemiology study from the National Cancer Institute confirms previous study conclusions that there is no link between aspartame consumption and leukemias, lymphomas and brain tumors.  The study, presented today at the American Association of Cancer Research meeting in Washington, D.C., evaluated over 500,000 men and women between the ages of 50 and 69 over a five-year period.  The researchers found (compared with those who did not consume aspartame) that there was no evidence of an increased risk of leukemias, lymphomas and brain tumors among those who use aspartame.  The researchers report, “Our findings from this epidemiologic study suggest that consumption of aspartame-containing beverages does not raise the risk of hematopoietic or brain malignancies.”

The study confirms the findings of a recent 2005 report, Review of Lymphatic and Hematopoietic Cancer Incidence Trends & Consumption of Aspartame, in which researchers concluded, upon examining cancer trends from the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) program there is no consistent pattern (of leukemias or lymphomas) that parallels the rise in aspartame consumption.   Further, the findings also support those of three recent animal studies conducted by the National Toxicology Program (NTP) designed to evaluate whether aspartame is capable of causing cancer.  These U.S. government-funded and managed studies were conducted using Good Laboratory Practices (GLP).  The results of these cancer studies, in which aspartame was fed to mice bred to be especially sensitive to cancer-causing agents, unequivocally indicated that “there was no evidence of carcinogenic activity [cancer] of aspartame.”

Prior to aspartame’s approval, four long-term carcinogenicity studies (twice the number needed for regulatory approval), conducted in accordance with international standards, found no relationship between aspartame and any form of cancer.  The studies were submitted to numerous regulatory agencies, such as the FDA, which conducted exhaustive reviews of the data.

“Despite allegations by critics, this new NCI study, in conjunction with a multitude of other scientific studies, clearly demonstrates that aspartame is not a carcinogen and can be a beneficial and safe tool in helping people reduce calories and control their weight.  On the other hand, obesity has been shown to be directly related to certain types of cancer,” noted Lyn Nabors, President of the Calorie Control Council.

Aspartame is composed of two amino acids, aspartic acid and phenylalanine, as the methyl ester.  Amino acids are the building blocks of protein.  Aspartic acid and phenylalanine are found naturally in protein containing foods, including meats, grains and dairy products.  Methyl esters are also found naturally in many foods such as fruits and vegetables and their juices.  The body handles the components from aspartame in the same way it handles them when derived from other foods.

Aspartame has been determined to be safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other scientific and regulatory authorities worldwide.  In addition to the FDA, the Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) of the World Health Organization and Food and Agriculture Organization, the Scientific Committee on Food of the European Union and regulatory agencies in more than 100 countries have reviewed aspartame and found it to be safe for use.

Items of Interest

April 4, 2006 Statements