Artificial sweeteners keep the sweetness while lowering the amount of added sugar and calories. The French National Institute for Health and Medical Research (INSERM) and Sorbonne Paris Nord University, France, published a study on March 24 that found that artificial sweeteners raise the risk of cancer. Charlotte Debras and Mathilde Touvier led the study, which was published in PLOS Medicine.
Millions of individuals consume artificial sweetener-containing foods and beverages on a daily basis. The safety of these additions, on the other hand, has been a point of contention. Researchers reviewed data from 102,865 French people who took part in the NutriNet-Santé trial to assess the potential carcinogenicity of artificial sweeteners.
The Nutritional Epidemiology Research Team started the NutriNet-Santé project in 2009 as a web-based cohort (EREN). Participants voluntarily participate and provide information about their medical history, sociodemographics, diet, lifestyle, and health. Researchers used 24-hour dietary records to compile information on artificial sweetener consumption.
The researchers used statistical analysis to look into the links between artificial sweetener intake and cancer risk after collecting cancer diagnosis information during follow-up. Age, sex, education, physical activity, smoking, BMI, height, weight gain during follow-up, diabetes, family history of cancer, as well as baseline energy, alcohol, sodium, saturated fatty acids, fiber, sugar, whole-grain foods, and dairy product intakes were all taken into account.
The researchers discovered that participants who consumed more artificial sweeteners, particularly aspartame and acesulfame-K, had a higher risk of total cancer than those who did not (hazard ratio 1.13, 95 percent confidence interval 1.03 to 1.25).Breast cancer and obesity-related malignancies were shown to have higher risks.
The study had several significant flaws, including the fact that dietary intakes were self-reported. Selection bias could have played a role in why participants were more likely to be women, have better educational levels, and engage in health-conscious behaviors.
Because the study is observational, residual confounding is a possibility, and reverse causality cannot be ruled out. Confirming the findings and elucidating the underlying mechanisms will necessitate more investigation.
The authors claim that “our findings do not support the use of artificial sweeteners as safe sugar substitutes in meals or beverages, but they do provide valuable and innovative information to help resolve the debate over their potential negative health effects.
” While these findings need to be replicated in other large-scale cohorts and the underlying mechanisms clarified through experimental studies, they provide important and novel insights for the European Food Safety Authority’s and other health agencies’ ongoing re-evaluation of food additives “..
Debras continues, “Artificial sweeteners, which are prevalent in many food and beverage brands around the world, may be linked to an elevated cancer risk, according to findings from the NutriNet-Santé cohort (n = 102,865), which are consistent with other experimental in vivo or in vitro research. Certain findings provide new information for health officials to re-evaluate these food additives. “