Recent Study on Aspartame and Cancer Critically Flawed

Over 200 Studies Demonstrate the Safety of Aspartame

ATLANTA (Oct. 24, 2012) Findings presented in “Consumption of Artificial Sweetener and Sugar Containing Soda and the Risk of Lymphoma and Leukemia in Men and Women” are weak, misleading, and critically flawed.  The study has numerous limitations, as noted by the authors themselves.  Based on these facts, consumers should not be frightened away from enjoying the over 6000 food and beverage products that contain aspartame, one of the most thoroughly studied ingredients.  We stand confidently behind an extensive body of evidence-based science that affirms this sweetener is safe, as do numerous regulatory, food safety and public health agencies and organizations throughout the world.

The study has numerous limitations and needlessly scares people from the over 6000 food and beverage products that contain aspartame, one of the most thoroughly studied ingredients.  No true association between the intake of aspartame and leukemia was found, although authors reported the contrary.
The Calorie Control Council cites the following as serious limitations of the study:

  • No true association between the intake of aspartame and leukemia was found, although the authors reported the contrary. The relationship presented between the consumption of aspartame and lymphoma/leukemia was extremely weak. Further, the authors misinterpreted the statistics, stating that the association found with leukemia was significant, when in fact it was not what statisticians would consider significant. The authors themselves note that their reported findings “do not permit ruling out chance as an explanation.”
  • The reported findings are in direct contrast to a National Cancer Institute (NCI) study which found no link between aspartame consumption and leukemias and lymphomas.  The NCI study 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 and lymphomas among those who use aspartame. The NCI study confirms the findings of a 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.
  • The results of the study do not appear plausible. It is peculiar that an increase in lymphoma/leukemia rates was not seen with increasing amounts of aspartame consumption.  Intuitively, one would think that if there was a risk, it would be more likely to affect the group with the highest intake.  It also does not seem plausible that an association would be seen in men, but not women, particularly when women typically consume more diet beverages than men.
  • Other factors may have influenced the findings. The authors controlled for some things known to impact the risk of lymphoma/leukemia, but admitted there might be other factors for which they did not control. For example, the study did not control for other ingredients in diet soft drinks.  Additionally, other sources of phenylalanine, aspartic acid, and methanol, the components of aspartame, were not considered, although the authors theorized that one of those substances might be driving the association.
  • The study cannot determine cause and effect. Because the study was epidemiological, it is impossible to ascertain if aspartame was the cause of any of the findings seen. Even the authors state that other variables could be influencing the results.
  • The study had numerous limitations. The authors themselves noted several limitations of the study: 1) study subjects could have incorrectly reported what they ate, 2) study subjects do not necessarily represent everyone in the U.S., and 3) factors other than the ones for which researchers controlled could have affected the reported relationship.
  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and other regulatory authorities around the world have reviewed the safety of aspartame on numerous occasions since its approval and reconfirmed its safety.

This study confirms what other scientific research has shown:

  • People who consume diet beverages are also more likely to consume fewer calories, eat more fruit, and exercise more.

Aspartame is one of the most thoroughly studied food ingredients in the food supply.  In fact, aspartame has been tested for over three decades in over 200 studies, with the same result: aspartame is safe.  Long- and short-term studies have been conducted in laboratory animals and humans, including infants, children, healthy adults, lactating women, diabetics, obese people and people with the rare genetic condition phenylketonuria (PKU). In addition to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) of the World Health Organization (WHO) and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the Scientific Committee Food (SCF) of the European Union and regulatory agencies of more than 100 countries have reviewed aspartame and found that its use is safe.

Neither aspartame nor its components accumulate in the body. These components are used in the body in the same ways as when they are derived from common foods. Further, the amounts of these components from aspartame are small compared to the amounts from other food sources. For example, a serving of nonfat milk provides about 6 times more phenylalanine and 13 times more aspartic acid compared to an equivalent amount of diet beverage sweetened 100% with aspartame. Likewise, a serving of tomato juice provides about 6 times more methanol compared to an equivalent amount of diet beverage with aspartame.

For more information on low-calorie sweeteners and how to incorporate low-calorie foods and beverages into a healthy lifestyle, visit

# # #

About The Calorie Control Council

The Calorie Control Council, established in 1966, is an international non-profit association representing the low-calorie and sugar-free food and beverage industry. Today it represents 60 manufacturers and suppliers of low-calorie, low-fat and light foods and beverages, including the manufacturers and suppliers of more than a dozen different dietary ingredients including aspartame, saccharin, stevia and sucralose. For more information, visit

Items of Interest

October 24, 2012 Press Releases