In response to a reader's question about reported links between NutraSweet and brain cancer, Dr. Robert Moser, medical consultant for The NutraSweet Kelco Company responds:
More than 200 scientific studies have established the safety of aspartame. Conducted over the past 25 years by researchers at universities and health organizations throughout the world, these studies were rigorously reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration before aspartame was first approved for use in products. FDA's approval has been supported by many regulatory agencies and medical associations around the world. In addition, FDA has reaffirmed the safety of aspartame 26 times over the past 23 years for use in different types of foods and beverages.
Recently there was some news coverage about aspartame and brain tumors. The story was based on a paper published by John Olney, a long-time critic of aspartame, and others at Washington University. The paper looks at National Cancer Institute data, claims that there has been an increase in the rate of brain tumors in the U.S. and suggests that there might be a link to aspartame. (It is important to note that the paper simply asserts a hypothesis and does not offer new clinical research -- as some have mis-reported.)
Leading epidemiologists and biostaticians at Harvard University, the University of Illinois, the FDA and the National Cancer Institute who examined the Olney paper called its methodology and conclusions flawed for several reasons, most importantly:
- It is physiologically impossible for aspartame to be a carcinogen because it is fully-digested in the gastrointestinal tract and never enters the bloodstream.
- Dr. Olney's hypothesis ignores the fact that there is no analysis as to whether the people affected by brain tumors also consumed aspartame.
- The National Cancer Institute's data directly contradict Dr. Olney's hypothesis. The data show that the rate of brain cancer incidence has increased gradually since 1973 and has begun to level off in the past ten years. In contrast, the use of aspartame has increased markedly since it came on the market in 1981. When plotted together on a graph the two curves in no way resemble one another. If the Olney hypothesis were true, the brain cancer line should follow the aspartame use line with a drastic increase.
If you are interested in additional information about aspartame, please don't hesitate to visit our website at http://www.nutrasweet.com. You also can call NutraSweet's consumer center at 800/323-5316 if you have specific questions.
Last Updated: Tuesday September 09, 2003 20:46:08
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