Post linking artificial sweeteners to cancer leaves a sour taste - Australian Associated Press

Post linking artificial sweeteners to cancer leaves a sour taste – Australian Associated Press

A Facebook user is warning against artificial sweeteners, saying they can increase the risk of cancer and other serious health problems.

However, cancer experts say otherwise. They advise people to eat a healthy diet and avoid highly processed foods and drinks, but studies show that artificial sweeteners can be safely consumed within daily limits.

A post on the Ross Walter Nutritionist & Naturopath site says that “artificial sweeteners have a far more serious effect on your health than sugar” and lists several concerns, including that they “increase the risk of cancer.” The post refers to the French study as a reference.

The post claims that artificial sweeteners cause a number of health problems including cancer.

However, the claim is false. Experts said AAP FactCheck there is no conclusive evidence to show that sugar substitutes cause cancer.

Ian Musgrave, a molecular pharmacologist at the University of Adelaide, says artificial sweeteners are often “demonised” and lead to public distrust of “chemicals and artificial ingredients” in food.

Dr. Musgrave pointed to several studies ( here , here , here , here , and here ) that looked at whether artificial sweeteners cause cancer.

“Overall, the weight of evidence from multiple sources provides no evidence that artificial sweeteners cause cancer in humans,” he said in an email.

White sugar in a glass with a straw
It is not recommended to consume large amounts of drinks containing sugar or artificial sweeteners.

Professor Luigi Fontana, a medical scientist and nutritionist at the University of Sydney, said the French study – Artificial sweeteners and cancer risk – was “interesting” but “inconclusive”.

That’s because “epidemiological studies are observational rather than experimental in nature, and observed associations do not indicate cause and effect,” he said. AAP FactCheck in email.

Professor Fontana said the data in the study were consistent with animal data, demonstrating a potential pro-cancer effect of artificial sweeteners. Results from animal studies indicate that aspartame has been associated with an increased risk of various types of cancer and carcinomas at doses comparable to those to which humans may be exposed. However, he says the findings have been controversial.

Dr Musgrave added that when research is done, there are smaller results in animal studies at concentrations and exposure times that are “irrelevant to humans and are inappropriate”.

Clare Hughes, chair of Cancer Council NSW’s nutrition and physical activity committee, says while some studies raise concerns that consuming intense sweeteners increases the risk of certain cancers, other studies show no link.

“There is currently no evidence that intense sweeteners allowed in foods cause cancer or are unsafe in the permitted amounts and doses that are commonly consumed,” Hughes said. AAP FactCheck in email.

It says sweeteners are strictly regulated by Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ), which “undertakes safety assessments based on internationally established acceptable daily intake levels”.

Ms Hughes says the World Cancer Research Fund has also seen no strong evidence that drinks made with intensive sweeteners cause cancer, but the International Agency for Research on Cancer has identified aspartame as a “high priority for further assessment”.

“FSANZ has not assessed consumption levels of intensive sweeteners in Australia since 2003,” she said.

“Beverages, tabletop sweeteners and yoghurts were the main sources of intense sweeteners in the Australian diet. A more recent study of Australia’s food supply found an increase in the proportion of foods and drinks containing intense sweeteners from 2015 to 2019.

She said foods and drinks containing intense sweeteners were usually highly processed and the Cancer Council urged people to eat more vegetables, fruit, legumes and whole grains to reduce the risk of cancer.

Yogurt products in a supermarket
Yogurts are one of the main sources of intense sweeteners in the Australian diet.

Professor Michael Barton, a radiation oncologist at UNSW Sydney, also said AAP FactCheck in an email that well-researched sources do not support the post’s claims.

Professor Barton pointed to the Cancer Research UK website which states: “No, the best evidence shows that artificial sweeteners such as aspartame do not increase the risk of cancer… Your overall diet (what you eat every day) is more important than individual ingredients or foods for reducing the risk of cancer.’

AAP FactCheck has previously debunked other health claims made by Mr. Walter (see here, here, here, here and here).


The claim that artificial sweeteners increase the risk of cancer is false. Many studies show that there is no evidence linking them to cancer. This was reported by the authorities and food safety experts AAP FactCheck that artificial sweeteners do not cause cancer and can be safely consumed within the average daily intake.

False – This statement is inaccurate.

* AAP FactCheck is an accredited member of the International Fact-Checking Network. To keep up with our latest fact-checking, follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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