Article by Joanna Sarah-Freedman
After a recent report suggested that a sweetener in Diet Coke could be a potential cancer risk, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has revealed how much is actually safe to drink.
The sweetener aspartame is not only found in some diet drinks but also the likes of chewing gum, and was recently labelled by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) – which is the WHO’s cancer research division – as “possibly carcinogenic to humans”.
They found it had been linked to a type of liver cancer after three studies. Whilst the first didn’t manage to prove the link between aspartame and a higher risk of liver cancer, the second study noted that ‘some cancers in mice and rats were linked to aspartame’ and the third concluded that there was a ‘slightly higher cancer risk’ in those who consumed a large amount of the sweetener.
“Potential effects have been described that need to be investigated,” WHO doctor, Francesco Branca said.
How much Diet Coke is safe to drink to avoid cancer risks and is it safe to drink?
Now, the good news is, the findings have uncovered that there are “safe limits” to drinking Diet Coke, and other drinks with the chemical in them.
Yep, nobody’s suggesting you give it up (we can practically hear the DC addicts breathing a sigh of relief from here!)
Speaking on the new findings, NBC reports that the Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) confirmed aspartame is safe as long as people keep their consumption under 40mg per kg of body weight a day.
That means you’d have to be drinking around nine cans a day before you even had to think about this specific risk factor. Reassured?
Commenting on the new cancer findings, the International Council of Beverages Associations criticised coverage of the studies last week, once it was confirmed the drink was still safe to consume in normal amounts.
They said coverage “needlessly confused consumers with sensational speculation,” whilst Sir David Spiegelhalter, a professor of statistics at the University of Cambridge and an authority on the issue, said that classifying the sweetener as a carcinogen was “a bit farcical,” as per The Telegraph.
“Knowing that something is potentially dangerous is useful as one can then start to manage the risk, but it is not really helpful if the information is without any context,” added Gunter Kuhnle, a professor of nutrition and food science at the University of Reading, to the publication.
“This illustrates also the importance of distinguishing between hazard and risk and highlights the difficulty in communicating hazards: sunlight is a hazard as it can cause cancer, but the risk depends on the amount of sunlight and whether we use protection.”
A spokesperson for the FDA added: “Aspartame is one of the most studied food additives in the human food supply.
“FDA scientists do not have safety concerns when aspartame is used under the approved conditions.”
So, there you have it. You can still have your Diet Coke…just maybe not ten a day (as much as we love the stuff, even we’d admit that that might be pushing it).
Featured image: Getty