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anses

French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety

ANSES assesses the nutritional benefits and risks of intense sweeteners

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News of 15/03/2011

15 March 2011

As part of its continual monitoring of health issues, ANSES has examined two new studies on the possible health effects that could be attributed to aspartame or soft drinks containing food sweeteners, including aspartame. The Agency publishes an Opinion today confirming that these two new studies provide no sufficient scientific basis for a toxicological re-evaluation of aspartame, but also states that it wishes to broaden the study. ANSES will therefore be setting up a working group to assess the nutritional benefits and risks of intense sweeteners and the need to draw up recommendations for any vulnerable population groups identified in the course of its work.

One of the two studies examined by ANSES concerned the effects of aspartame in mice, while the other considered the link between the consumption of intense sweeteners (including aspartame) in pregnant women and an increased risk of preterm delivery. The Agency gave the following reasons for considering that these publications do not justify a toxicological re-evaluation of aspartame:
The first study reported an increase in the incidence of cancer in male mice after administration of very high doses of aspartame in their feed throughout each animal's lifespan. As a result of the uncertainties and methodological deficiencies presented by this study, ANSES states that it is not possible to transpose the effects observed to humans.

The second study was carried out on about 60,000 pregnant women and establishes a statistical association between the consumption of carbonated (fizzy) drinks containing sweeteners and an increased risk of preterm delivery. The Agency considers, however, as indicated by the authors themselves, that these preliminary results are insufficient to establish a cause and effect relationship between the consumption of sweetened soft drinks and an increased risk of preterm delivery, and requires confirmation.

In conclusion, ANSES considers that these new studies do not provide a sufficient scientific basis for a toxicological re-evaluation of aspartame. However, the Agency shares the desire of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to study the toxicological risks inherent in sweeteners, in the framework of the European regulations in force, and will contribute to this initiative.

Apart from the specific toxicological issues, the question of the nutritional value of intense sweeteners is frequently raised. In this context, ANSES will be setting up a working group to assess the nutritional benefits and risks of intense sweeteners and the need to draw up recommendations for any vulnerable population groups - including pregnant women - identified in the course of its work.

Find out more

  • L'avis du 14 mars 2011 relatif à une publication rapportant les incidences de cancer chez la souris mâle après administration d'aspartame par l'alimentation et une autre publication sur une étude prospective de cohorte chez des femmes enceintes qui rapporte l'association entre la consommation des boissons gazeuses (carbonatées) contenant des édulcorants et le risque d'accouchement prématuré.
  • Our close-up on food additives