Aspartame or AminoSweet, now a ’possible carcinogen’

Aspartame or AminoSweet, now a ’possible carcinogen’

Mired in controversy from the outset, even a name change to Aminosweet from Aspartame couldn't prevent IARC from finally and officially listing it as 'a possible carcinogen'.

In 2015, Aspartame changed its name to AminoSweet. In the USA, aspartame is marketed under names such as Nutrasweet and Equal. A sachet of Equal contains about 37 milligrams of aspartame. A 12-ounce can of diet soda contains around 200 milligrams.

From the outset, this anti-ulcer drug, aspartame, has been mired in controversy - linked to possible brain tumours; to anxiety and amygdala changes; to an increased risk of blood and lymph cancers; and to microbiome damage; just to mention four concerns. We have consistently warned you, by presenting a number of research studies. 

The 53 year saga of Aspartame 

Created by scientists at G D Searle and Company in 1970  as an anti-ulcer drug, it was accidentally found to taste sweet. It was then rushed through the company’s testing regime, and launched after gaining FDA approval. One test seemed to have been somewhat overlooked: Dr. Harold Waisman, a biochemist at the University of Wisconsin, conducted aspartame safety tests on infant monkeys but of the seven monkeys that were being fed aspartame mixed with milk, one died and five others had grand mal seizures.

A few years later in 1980, when serious health problems were noted, the FDA banned aspartame and instigated a criminal review against the company.  The FDA actually cited the risk of brain tumours amongst other concerns.

In 1981, after Reagan’s appointment to the White House,  the CEO of the Searle (none other than former US Defence secretary, and reputed CIA leader, Donald Rumsfeld) decided to ‘call in his markers’ to get it approved. Yet still it was rejected 3-2 by the FDA’s investigating panel.

FDA chairman Arthur Hull, then appointed a sixth member of the committee. Now a 3-3 draw, he used his casting vote to give it approval. He later went to work at PR firm, Burson-Marsteller, who work with both Monsanto and Searle. Monsanto went on to buy the sweetener from Searle, after two rival sweeteners in the market were each linked with cancer.

What ever the name, AminoSweet, marketed as some sort of natural sweetener , actually contains aspartic acid, phenylalanine, and methanol.

Possible links to brain tumours?

Aspartame has also been linked to seizures, headaches and epilepsy. The UK brain tumour trust announced in 2009 that it was going to investigate links between aspartame and brain cancer. We covered this in Cancer Watch.

Research links aspartame to anxiety, amygdala gene expression

One early research study showed it caused holes in the brains of mice. A December 2022 study from the Center of Brain Repair at Florida State University not only showed it could cause anxiety, but also affect gene expression in the amygdala of the brain, and could cause epigenetic changes that lasted for generations (1).

Aspartame linked to Leukaemia and Lymphoma, again

In 2005 the prestigious Ramazzini Foundation linked aspartame to an increased risk of blood and lymph cancers. The industry, of course, criticised the research. So the 'Collegeum Ramazzini' (to give it the correct title) took into account all the criticisms and repeated the research. The results were worse. 

Our report (2) in 2020 showed that just one daily 12-fl oz. can (355 ml) of diet soda containing aspartame leads to:

* A  42 percent higher leukemia risk in men and women 
* A 102 percent higher multiple myeloma risk (in men only)
* A  31 percent higher Non-Hodgkin lymphoma risk (in men only)

Sweeteners including aspartame can damage gut microbiome

Common sweeteners such as aspartame, sucralose and saccharin can change the gut lining epithelial cells and convert ordinarily safe bacteria to their dangerous forms, according to 2021 research from Ruskin College Cambridge UK (3). 

IARC listing aspartame as 'A Possible Carcinogen'

Of course, it depends how much you consume and over what period, but IARC, the Cancer research centre for the World Health Organisation is about to declare aspartame 'a possible carcinogen' (4).  As Reuters report, "Aspartame, used in products from Coca-Cola diet sodas to Mars' Extra chewing gum and some Snapple drinks, will be listed in July 2023 as "possibly carcinogenic to humans". 

It only took 53 years for this anti-ulcer drug turned sweetener to be assessed as possibly carcinogenic. Even now, this will not be the end of it, and PR firms will make a lot of money massaging the image of aspartame to convince people that it is really is safe. Don't expect it to be taken off the market any time soon.

Go to: Common chemicals called aldehydes linked to cancer



1. Transgenerational transmission of aspartame-induced anxiety and changes in glutamate-GABA signaling and gene expression in the amygdala; Sara K. Jones, Deirdre M. McCarthy, Cynthia Vied, Pradeep G. Bhide; PNAS December 2, 2022

2. Aspartame linked to leukemia and lymphoma again -

3. Artificial Sweeteners severely damage the gut microbiome -

4. Reuters Exclusive: WHO's cancer research agency to say aspartame sweetener a possible carcinogen - sources -


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