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Artificial Sweeteners Increase the Risk of Cancer

Risk factors such as processed food, sugary drinks, obesity, diabetes 2, alcohol consumption, sedentary and less activity have increased since 1950, and researchers’ opinion is that this caused changes in microorganisms in the digestive system. 

We do not dispute that, but one may perhaps say that an article/research on the topic published in Nature Reviews Clinical Oncology (Prof. Shuji Ogino, Bringham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, USA – Cancer among younger) is misleading and some would think its sole purpose is to divert focus and exonerate what others point to as a significant factor: The artificial sweeteners.

The increase in cancer

The increase has been rising for a longer period, and more quickly than the increase e.g. colon cancer, which started to go up in the mid-1980s. Compared with individuals who were born around 1950, those born in 1990 have twice the risk of colon cancer and four times the risk of for example rectal cancer.

Why do scientists choose to completely ignore the fact that the late 1980s and into the 1990s was a period when the most carcinogenic artificial sweeteners were approved and put into use? Why is it that much research overlooks any link to these, at the time, new substances, and instead shifts the blame to other foods?

In 1983 (48 FR 31376), FDA approved the use of aspartame in carbonated beverages and carbonated beverage syrup bases, and in 1996, FDA approved it for use as a “general purpose sweetener.”

FDA approved acesulfame potassium (Ace-K)for use in specific food and beverage categories in 1988 (53 FR 28379), and in 2003 approved it as a general-purpose sweetener and flavor enhancer in food

FDA approved sucralose for use in 15 food categories in 1998 and for use as a general-purpose sweetener for foods in 1999, under certain conditions of use.

Of course, we have no evidence to say that these artificial sweeteners are the only cause. The factors mentioned in the research report referred to can of course also be among the risk factors, but to overlook artificial sweeteners as a risk factor? Well, it must be permissible to ask why someone does it.

When others choose to completely ignore such factors, it may be useful to evaluate such an indirect “claim”?

Artificial Sweeteners Increase the Risk of Cancer

Evidence based study

Artificial sweeteners are low-calorie sweeteners used to replace sugar in foods and drinks. Many studies have shown that chemicals used in artificial sweeteners might increase cancer risk by changing the bacteria in your gut.

While the FDA has cleared these artificial sweeteners for use, there are many concerns. In 1988 (53 FR 28379), the FDA authorized using acesulfame potassium in several distinct food and beverage categories. In 2003, under strict usage guidelines, it authorized its use to enhance flavor in food, except for meat and poultry.

Additionally, the FDA approved sucralose for use in 15 different food categories under specific usage guidelines in 1998 and as a general-purpose sweetener for foods in 1999.

But did you know that artificial sweeteners can cause cancer? This article will explain why artificial sweeteners cause cancer and how to avoid it!

What Is Cancer?

When cells in the body start to multiply uncontrollably, cancer develops. Cells usually develop and divide orderly, but when this equilibrium is upset, they can multiply out of control and result in growths known as tumors. These tumors spread to other body parts through the blood or lymphatic system.

What Are the Basic Risk Factors of Cancer?

Risk factors such as processed food, sugary drinks, obesity, diabetes 2, alcohol consumption, sedentary and less activity have increased since 1950, and researchers’ opinion is that this caused changes in microorganisms in the digestive system.

Of 14 types of cancer, 8 were linked to the digestive system. The food we eat feeds the microorganisms in our intestines. Diet affects this composition directly; ultimately, these changes can affect disease risk.

Therefore, according to the researchers, the Western world’s lifestyle factors contribute to the cancer epidemic we now see. As with most diseases, many factors can contribute to the risk of developing cancer.

  • Artificial sweeteners have been linked to health problems like diabetes and obesity.
  • Excessive sun exposure has increased the risk for some skin cancers, including melanoma.
  • Exposure to radiation in medical imaging tests or treatments can increase your chances of developing certain cancers, such as leukemia or thyroid cancer.
  • Certain chemicals have been known to cause cancer in animals—and may also increase your risk for this disease in humans. Some examples are vinyl chloride, asbestos, benzene (an ingredient in gasoline), and diesel fuel exhaust fumes.

Can Artificial Sweeteners Cause Cancer?

Many food industries have begun to rely on artificial sweeteners and use them in beverages, food, and dairy products like yogurt and ice cream. When consuming artificial sweeteners instead of sugar substitutes, you should consider their possible side effects on health and the possibility of cancer because they contain carcinogenic elements such as benzene or formaldehyde that may be released during digestion when digestion is combined with digestive enzymes (mostly pancreatin).

Is There Any Research Evidence that Says Artificial Sweeteners Cause Cancer?

This is a serious question raised against artificial sweeteners. And the answer is YES; numerous studies support artificial sweeteners cause cancer. One of them is conducted by Nutritional Epidemiology Research Team.

This study concluded that artificial sweeteners might increase cancer risk by 13%. The main agents were aspartame and acesulfame-K, one of the famous artificial sweeteners. Those who use a lot of artificial sweeteners have a higher risk of acquiring breast cancer and malignancies linked to obesity.

In another NutriNet-Santé population-based cohort study conducted by NCBI, it is concluded that artificial sweeteners cause cancer. In this important cohort study, artificial sweeteners like acesulfame-K and aspartame present in many beverages and food worldwide accompany an increased risk of developing cancer.

What Are the Working Mechanisms of Artificial Sweeteners?

The working mechanism of artificial sweeteners is quite different from natural sweeteners.

  • Natural sweeteners like sugar, honey, etc., are called functional additives as they have a functional role in food products. They provide calories and carbohydrates to our body which are the main source of energy for our body.
  • Artificial sweeteners do not have any nutritional value and do not provide any calories or carbohydrates to our bodies. Hence, they are known as non-nutritive sweeteners.

Artificial sweeteners stimulate the taste buds on your tongue, sending signals to your brain when you taste something sour or bitter. When this happens, it tells your brain there’s an excess amount of sugar present, so it sends out hormones that tell you to stop eating as much (carbohydrates).

Researchers believe this leads to long-term weight loss because it Stops weight gain by increasing metabolism. But also causes some side effects such as headaches or stomach aches due to lack of energy intake from carbohydrates which may affect overall health if not taken care of properly.

Does Artificial Sweeteners Change Gut Microbiome?

Yes, artificial sweeteners are associated with changes in the gut microbiome and change the healthy gut bacteria into changed and diseased bacterium that start to invade the gut wall. This ultimately leads to serious health issues and may lead to gut cancer.

Colorectal cancer is the third most frequent cancer in both men and women worldwide. Diet, obesity, and physical inactivity are the three main risk factors for colorectal cancer. However, other things could make you more likely to get colorectal cancer. One of these factors is your gut microbiome. Your gastrointestinal tract’s resident bacteria are referred to as your gut microbiome. This comprises parasites, fungi, bacteria, and viruses.

The human body contains more bacteria than human cells. The bacteria in your gut are essential for digestion and metabolism processes. They can affect your overall health by regulating immune responses and how you absorb nutrients from your food.

Strong evidence suggests artificial sweeteners can be linked to changes in the gut microbiome and may lead to serious health issues such as diabetes type 2, obesity, heart disease, and even cancer!

Summing Up!

Multiple scientific studies support that artificial sweeteners cause cancer. Also, as it stands right now, it is clear that artificial sweeteners cause cancer and contain harmful agents.

Many scientific studies have found a correlation between increased usage of artificial sweeteners and higher cancer rates among those who consume more of these products. Whether this has been proven to be causal will take further study to determine.

References

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Chattopadhyay, S., Raychaudhuri, U., & Chakraborty, R. (2014). Artificial sweeteners – a review. Journal of food science and technology51(4), 611–621. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13197-011-0571-1

Sharma, A., Amarnath, S., Thulasimani, M., & Ramaswamy, S. (2016). Artificial sweeteners as a sugar substitute: Are they really safe? Indian journal of pharmacology48(3), 237–240. https://doi.org/10.4103/0253-7613.182888

Gupta M. (2018). Sugar Substitutes: Mechanism, Availability, Current Use and Safety Concerns-An Update. Open access Macedonian journal of medical sciences6(10), 1888–1894. https://doi.org/10.3889/oamjms.2018.336

Kim, J., & Lee, H. K. (2022). Potential Role of the Gut Microbiome In Colorectal Cancer Progression. Frontiers in immunology12, 807648. https://doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2021.807648

Sánchez-Alcoholado, L., Ramos-Molina, B., Otero, A., Laborda-Illanes, A., Ordóñez, R., Medina, J. A., Gómez-Millán, J., & Queipo-Ortuño, M. I. (2020). The Role of the Gut Microbiome in Colorectal Cancer Development and Therapy Response. Cancers12(6), 1406. https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers12061406

Chen G. Y. (2018). The Role of the Gut Microbiome in Colorectal Cancer. Clinics in colon and rectal surgery, 31(3), 192–198. https://doi.org/10.1055/s-0037-1602239

Cheng, Y., Ling, Z., & Li, L. (2020). The Intestinal Microbiota and Colorectal Cancer. Frontiers in immunology, 11, 615056. https://doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2020.615056

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Akinyemiju, T., Wiener, H., & Pisu, M. (2017). Cancer-related risk factors and incidence of major cancers by race, gender, and region; analysis of the NIH-AARP diet and health study. BMC Cancer17(1), 597. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12885-017-3557-1

Grassi, L., Caruso, R., Biancosino, B., Belvederi Murri, M., Riba, M., Meggiolaro, E., Ruffilli, F., Palagini, L., Nanni, M. G., Zavatta, S., Toffanin, T., Folesani, F., & Zerbinati, L. (2021). Knowledge about risk factors for cancer and cancer risk behavior among patients with severe mental illness. Psycho-oncology30(12), 2077–2081. https://doi.org/10.1002/pon.5822

 

The information on this website is NOT intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease or condition. Always consult a physician or qualified healthcare professional before making any significant changes to your diet. Please see our disclaimer.

Claudia Renata Peres Münch-Yttereng
CRO sorze4 AS
Master of Science, Nutrition, obesity and eating disorders. Radiographer and radiation therapist.

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