World Health Organization Backpedals On Aspartame

The World Health Organization has said three different things about aspartame this year. First, they said not to use sweeteners like aspartame for weight loss. Next, they designated aspartame, the sweetener in Diet Coke, a “possible carcinogen.” Now, the branch responsible for deciding which food additives are safe has confirmed that aspartame is safe to use in foods. That’s not actually a contradiction, but to most people it seems like informational whiplash. If you’re keeping score, that’s 2 votes for “aspartame bad” and 1 point for “aspartame good.” Life, however, is not a scoreboard and science isn’t won by counting points from either side. Positive and negative things can coexist and all be true. As for aspartame being a carcinogen, there is limited evidence for cancer in humans, but it can’t be ruled out completely. So, why did WHO decide aspartame is safe? The organization explains it this way: Hazard and risk are two different things. Something is a health hazard if they know it has some kind of negative effect on health. Aspartame was judged to possibly be a health hazard. Risk, on the other hand, is what matters in the real world, and the risk to people from consuming aspartame is extremely low. It fully breaks down in the digestive system, and no matter how much Diet Coke you drink, there’s no aspartame in your bloodstream. So, WHO has decided that the “acceptable daily intake” of aspartame is no more than 40mg per kilogram (2.2 pounds) of a person’s body weight. A 12-ounce can of Diet Coke contains 184mg of aspartame. That means that someone who weighs 150 pounds (68kg) could theoretically drink 10 16.9-oz bottles of Diet Coke a day, every day. It’s unlikely that anyone would be in danger of accidentally consuming that many bottles of anything.