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Rat Study Shows Cancer, Aspartame Link

But Critics Charge That Research Is Flawed

Widely Considered Safe

Poulos says that regulatory agencies in 130 countries have reviewed aspartame and found it to be safe.

Most scientific organizations that have weighed in on the question have come to the same conclusion, including the American Medical Association, the American Dietetic Association, the American Diabetes Association, and the American Cancer Society.

In its report on aspartame, the American Cancer Society concludes that "current evidence does not demonstrate any link between aspartame ingestion and increased cancer risk."

In the newly published study, Soffritti and colleagues speculated that methanol, which is a byproduct of aspartame, may explain the increase in cancers seen in the study. Methanol is metabolized in both rats and humans to form formaldehyde, which is a carcinogen.

Beth Hubrich, MS, MD, of the artificial sweetener-industry group Calorie Control Council, tells WebMD that all kinds of foods contain methanol. She calls the newly published study "seriously flawed."

"You can actually find six times more methanol in a glass of tomato juice than in a beverage sweetened with aspartame," she says. "And there is no difference in the way that methanol is metabolized by the body when it comes from aspartame or from some other source like tomato or orange juice."

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