More Questions About Aspartame

WebMD reports an Italian study of rats links low doses of aspartame -- the sweetener in NutraSweet, Equal, and thousands of consumer products -- to leukemia and lymphoma. But food industry officials point out that many other studies have found no link between aspartame and cancer.

The rats in the study were fed various doses of aspartame throughout their lives. In female but not male rats, lymphoma and leukemia were significantly associated with daily aspartame doses as low as 20 milligrams (mg) per kilogram (kg) of body weight. To reach a dose of 20 mg/kg, a 140-pound woman would need to drink three cans of diet soda a day. A 180-pound man would need to drink four cans of diet soda a day. The sweetener is also in thousands of products, ranging from yogurt to over-the-counter medicines.

The average person consumes about 2 or 3 mg/kg aspartame each day. However, that figure goes way up for children and young women. The study comes from a research team led by Morando Soffritti, MD, scientific director of the European Ramazzini Foundation of Oncology and Environmental Sciences in Bologna, Italy.

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