In a development, aspartame, which is one of the most commonly used artificial sweeteners across the world, is set to be declared a possible carcinogen by next month, news agency Reuters reported.
The report is based on two sources with knowledge of the process and the declaration will be made by the World Health Organization (WHO), as per Reuters. This comes a month after WHO warned against the usage of artificial sweeteners. As per the report in Reuters, aspartame is used in a variety of products such as Coca-Cola and other carbonated drinks, chewing gums and lots of sweet beverages as well. Now, that brings us to the question that is furiously trending on the internet. What exactly is aspartame? Well, if you want to know, read on further. What is aspartame? Firstly, aspartame is one of the most popular non-nutritive sweeteners (NNS) in the market and is even used in products labelled as diet, sugar-free, no or low calorie and zero sugar, as per Healthline. It is an odourless powder that is white in colour and is 200 times sweeter than normal sugar. That's actually a lot! This means that a very small amount of the same is needed to sweeten food and beverages. The key ingredients of aspartame according to Healthline are - aspartic acid and phenylalanine. Both of them are naturally-occurring amino acids, which are known as "building blocks" of proteins. Moreover, according to Food Insight, aspartame when digested also produces a small amount of methanol, a compound that is present naturally in fruits and vegetables and their juices. In addition, aspartame is also used as an alternative to sugar in many "sugar-free products". It can also be found in foods such as light yoghurt, no-sugar energy bars, sugar-free ice cream etc. Meanwhile, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of aspartame in food and drinks in 1981, as reported by The Washington Post. According to sources quoted by Reuters, aspartame will be listed in July as "possibly carcinogenic to humans" for the very first time by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), that is WHO's cancer research arm. The IARC along with the Joint Organization Expert Committee on Food Additives (JEFCA) are currently reviewing the effects and safety of aspartame.