Assessments of the health impacts of the non-sugar sweetener aspartame were released on July 14 by the IARC and WHO, and the Food and Agriculture Organization Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives. Citing “limited evidence” for human carcinogenicity, IARC classified aspartame as possibly carcinogenic to humans (IARC Group 2B).
2 Committee Assessment Process On The Health Effects Of Aspartame
This assessment of the health effects of aspartame is the first assessment by IARC and the third assessment by JECFA. Over the past two years, the agency has conducted independent and complementary reviews to assess aspartame’s potential carcinogenic hazards and other health risks.
Among them, IARC’s hazard assessment is to understand the carcinogenicity of aspartame from the specific characteristics of aspartame and the possibility of causing harm. It is the first basic step in its assessment.
JECFA’s risk assessment goes a step further. It is the identification of the likelihood of a specific type of injury occurring under specific conditions and exposure levels. In simple terms, it is the likelihood that aspartame will cause cancer under certain conditions and exposure levels.
The IARC and JECFA committees’ assessment of the health risks of aspartame is based on a collection of scientific data, including peer-reviewed papers, government reports, and studies for regulatory purposes. Among them, in order to evaluate aspartame, IARC convened 25 cancer experts from 12 countries in Lyon, France, to review existing research. Independent experts have reviewed these studies, and both committees have taken steps to ensure the independence and reliability of their own assessments.
Conclusion: The evidence of carcinogenicity of aspartame in humans is insufficient, but the evidence of carcinogenicity in animals is convincing.
After considering all types of exposure (e.g., diet, occupation), IARC finally classified aspartame as a Group 2B probable human carcinogen. Also in the same group are kimchi and other pickled vegetables.
There are four levels of strength of evidence in Group 2B. Aspartame is the 3rd highest level. Specifically, there are insufficient data on causing cancer in humans; however, the evidence for causing cancer in animals is convincing.
Therefore, while declaring that it may be carcinogenic, Dr. Moez Sanaa, head of WHO standards and scientific advice, also mentioned that the JECFA committee, considering the evidence on cancer risk in animal and human studies, the consumption of aspartame and human cancer The evidence for an association is not yet convincing, and longer follow-up and repeated dietary questionnaires, randomized controlled trials, etc. are needed.
According to relevant media reports, the US FDA, which approved aspartame decades ago, criticized the results announced by the WHO on July 13, local time in the United States, saying that the sweetener is safe. The fact that the WHO classifies aspartame as a probable human carcinogen does not mean that aspartame is actually linked to cancer.
Is Aspartame Still Safe?
According to JECFA, the acceptable daily intake for aspartame is 40 mg/kg (body weight). A person’s daily consumption is safe within this limit.
Assuming no other sources of aspartame ingestion, a 70kg adult would need to consume more than 9-14 cans per day to exceed the acceptable intake by drinking a beverage containing 200-300mg per can.
“Cancer is one of the leading causes of death globally. Every year, one in six people die from cancer,” said Dr Francesco Branca, Director of WHO’s Department of Nutrition and Food Safety. “Science is expanding to assess possible triggers of cancer.” or contributing factors, hoping to reduce these numbers and the casualties. Aspartame assessments show that while safety is not a major concern at commonly used doses, potential effects have been described and need to be investigated with more and better studies. “
Synthetic Sweeteners VS Natural Sweeteners
As a synthetic sweetener, aspartame has been used in various food and beverages since the early 1980s, including sugar-free drinks, chewing gum, ice cream, yogurt, and other dairy products, as well as breakfast cereals, toothpaste, cough drops, and vitamins, etc. category.
It is widely used in beverages, such as Coca-Cola (zero sugar cola), Pepsi zero sugar, and other sugar-free sodas and other products. According to The Lancet Oncology, artificially sweetened beverages are the largest source of exposure to aspartame.
The proportion of artificial sweetener applications began to decline.
In fact, not only artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, acesulfame potassium, and sucralose are facing a surge in the market share of natural sweeteners in addition to internal concerns about safety risks. In recent years, along with the rapid development of natural sweeteners, the market for artificial sweeteners has declined.
According to Mintel data, from 2010 to 2020, the proportion of natural sweeteners increased yearly, from 8.16% 2010 to 29.41% in 2020. The proportion of the use of artificial sweeteners has been decreasing year by year. It is mainly because natural sweeteners align with new health, safety, naturalness, and sugar control demands.
According to the research report of Tianfeng Securities, as of 2022, in the domestic sweetener market, synthetic sweeteners accounted for 52%, natural sweeteners accounted for 29%, and sugar alcohol sweeteners accounted for 18.2%. Artificial sweeteners still occupy the mainstream of the entire sweetener market, but the growth rate can no longer be compared with natural sweeteners.
4 Latest Natural Sweeteners Overview
Carob Derived Sweeteners
In late June, Israeli food tech startup CarobWay launched a carob-derived sweetener. It is made from the fruit of the carob tree.
CarobWay is extracted from de-seeded pods using a process and can be used in various food and beverages in the form of syrup. The sweetener contains D-Pinitol, trace amounts of soluble fiber, and polyphenols and has the characteristics of mild sweetness and low GI. It also features less processing and is easy to add to formulations.
A new solution of sucrose + chicory + natural flavor
The Israeli company Resugar has developed a sugar substitution solution that combines 30% sucrose with dietary fiber, such as chicory and natural flavors. It can make the sugar nearly three times sweeter. This solution looks, tastes, and functions like sucrose. It can be used in various desserts, including baked goods and cookies, chocolates, fudge, meal replacements, and more.
The company did not disclose the source of these natural flavors.
Previously, Resugar had used its solution in Nestlé-Froneri low-calorie ice cream sold locally.
Sweet protein brazzein
Brazzein is 2000 times sweeter than sucrose. Because it’s found in small amounts in the fruit oubil, Oobli used genetically engineered yeast strains to produce the same protein in fermenters.
Since no detectable modified DNA from the Pichia strain in the finished product will not be labeled as a “bioengineered” food ingredient in the United States.
In December 2022, the Oobli company launched a food product featuring the sweet protein brazzein – a chocolate bar that reduces sugar content by 70%.
Coconut sugar is obtained by extracting coconut flowers. Its taste and color are similar to caramel, which can replace sucrose 1:1. Its glycemic index is 35. lower than sucrose. At the same time, coconut sugar is rich in various vitamins and minerals and is very popular in foreign markets.
According to the sales data of major sweeteners in the United States in the past year released by SPINS in early 2022, coconut sugar is the fastest-growing sweetener in beverages, with a growth rate of 21.1%.
However, only coconut trees older than eight years have coconut nectar. Each coconut tree can collect 0.5-1 kg of juice per day. It takes 7 kg of sap to make about 1kg of coconut flower candy. Therefore, its cost is very high.
Because of patents problem, Nutri Avenue doesn’t sell these 4 natural sweeteners and their formulations.
Other Natural Sweeteners
- Monk Fruit Extract (Natural Sweetener)
- Stevia Extract Sweetener
- L-Arabinose Sweetener
- D-Allulose Sweetener
- Erythritol Sweetener
We have repeatedly introduced the above several natural sweeteners. Details can be searched on the official website. If you want to purchase bulk sweeteners, welcome to get a free quote.
In fact, some people think that the WHO’s official announcement that aspartame causes cancer does not have much impact on the industry. But also, because of this news, consumers will start to look at the ingredient list and stop buying drinks with aspartame.
No matter which view you take, as soon as the news comes out, the sales and application of aspartame will definitely be affected on a large scale. Judging from the previous market quotations, the market price of aspartame in July is already lower than in June.
In the long run, with the cost reduction, supply increase, and consumer market awareness, natural sweeteners will likely occupy a larger share of the future market. Moreover, Nutri Avenue believes that in the future sweetener market, more and more new natural sweeteners will appear, and more and more new formulations of sweeteners will be applied.