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No Evidence Artificial Sweeteners Cause Cancer

Tracy Davenport Tracy Davenport
Food & Beverages
6th April 2021
No Evidence Artificial Sweeteners Cause Cancer
No link has been proven (Getty Images).

The Claim

Artificial sweeteners cause cancer.

Emerging story

Many on social media suggest that artificial sweeteners are known to cause cancer.

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Misbar’s Analysis

Misbar discovered that the world’s oldest artificial sweetener was discovered in 1879 by researchers at Johns Hopkins University. At the time, even President Theodore Roosevelt had an opinion about the safety of the product according to saccharin.org and is quoted saying, “Anybody who says saccharin is injurious to health is an idiot.” Today, artificial sweeteners are used frequently, especially in drinks.

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Sugar substitutes may be divided into three categories: functional sweeteners, enhancing natural sweeteners/sweet taste enhancers, and artificial sweeteners. Functional sweeteners are mostly naturally occurring and include sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol and erythritol. Enhancing natural sweeteners are sugar substitutes that can be extracted from plants and include stevia. Artificial sweeteners are chemically produced sugar substitutes that do not occur naturally. These include saccharin, acesulfame, aspartame, neotame, and sucralose. 

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The idea that paired artificial sweeteners with cancer came from a 1978 study that showed saccharin was carcinogenic for urinary bladder in rats and mice. Since then, more testing has occurred with humans and artificial sweeteners and none of the FDA approved artificial sweeteners have been shown to be carcinogenic according to the National Cancer Institute

However, artificial sweeteners may not be the healthiest choice, especially if they are being used for weight loss. At least one study has shown that using artificial sweeteners can actually lead to weight gain. According to Harvard Medical School, one concern is that people who use artificial sweeteners may replace the lost calories through other sources. For example, if a person drinks a diet soda, she may feel like she can now eat cake. Also, because these sweeteners taste very sweet, consumers might perceive naturally sweet nutritious food such as fruit as not sweet. 

Misbar’s Classification


Misbar’s Sources

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