Study Links Artificial Sweeteners With Heightened Cancer Risk

A recent study by researchers at the French National Institute for Health and Medical Research or Inserm and Sorbonne Paris Nord University, France has revealed that artificial sweeteners may not after all be beneficial for the human body. According to the study published in PLOS Medicine, certain artificial sweeteners can lead to higher chances of people being affected by cancer.

On a daily basis, people consume food products and drinks containing artificial sweeteners. There has always been debate about the safety of these products. In order to better understand the harmful effects of artificial sweeteners, researchers studied data from 102,865 French adults carcinogenicity participating in the NutriNet-Santé study.

The NutriNet-Santé study is an ongoing web-based cohort, which was started in 2009 by the Nutritional Epidemiology Research Team or EREN. Participants enroll voluntarily in the survey and self-report medical history, sociodemographic, diet, lifestyle, and health data. As part of the study, researchers gathered data regarding artificial sweetener intake from the 24-hour dietary records.

After collecting cancer diagnosis information during follow-up, the researchers conducted statistical analyses to investigate the associations between artificial sweetener intakes and cancer risk. They also adjusted for a range of variables including age, sex, education, physical activity, smoking, body mass index, height, weight-gain during follow-up, diabetes, family history of cancer, along with baseline intakes of energy, alcohol, sodium, saturated fatty acids, fiber, sugar, whole-grain foods, and dairy products.

The researchers found that volunteers who had larger intake of artificial sweeteners, particularly aspartame and acesulfame-K, had greater risk of overall cancer compared to non-consumers (hazard ratio 1.13, 95% confidence interval 1.03 to 1.25). Higher risks were observed for breast cancer and obesity-related cancers.

Commenting on the findings, the researchers said, "Our findings do not support the use of artificial sweeteners as safe alternatives for sugar in foods or beverages and provide important and novel information to address the controversies about their potential adverse health effects. While these results need to be replicated in other large-scale cohorts and underlying mechanisms clarified by experimental studies, they provide important and novel insights for the ongoing re-evaluation of food additive sweeteners by the European Food Safety Authority and other health agencies globally."

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