“Nowadays consumers are increasingly concerned about the quality and safety of many products present in the diet of industrialized countries, and increasingly, in the developing world. One particular concern is the use of artificial sweeteners, flavorings, colorings, preservatives and dietary supplements.
General apprehension also exists regarding the possible long term health effects of the raw materials and technologies used for the packaging, sterilization and distribution of foods. Of particular concern are the potential carcinogenic effects of these products and processes. The experimental and epidemiological data currently available to evaluate the above carcinogenic risks are insufficient and often unreliable due to the inadequate planning and conduct of previous experiments/trials.
This inadequacy, combined with the general limited knowledge about the safety/potential carcinogenic effects of substances widely present in the industrialized diet, motivated the European Ramazzini Foundation (ERF) in 1985 to design an integrated program of mega-experiments to test widely diffused goods/compounds such as beverages, food additives, contaminants and pesticides.
This presentation will focus on the case of aspartame (APM), a widely used artificial sweetener present in over 6,000 products including soft drinks, chewing gum, candy, desserts, yogurt and pharmaceuticals, in particular, syrups and antibiotics for children. Results of a long term experimental study conducted in the ERF laboratories and published in Environmental Health Perspectives (Vol.114, n.3, pp. 379-386) demonstrated that APM, when administered in feed at various doses to 1,800 Sprague-Dawley rats (100-150/sex/group), causes a statistically significant, dose-related increase of lymphomas/leukemias and malignant tumors of the renal pelvis in females and malignant tumors of peripheral nerves in males. Results of a second study conducted by the ERF on 400 male and female Sprague Dawley rats (70-95/sex/group), confirmed that APM, when administered with feed at concentrations of 2000, 400, or 0 ppm (equivalent to 100 and 20 mg/kg of body weight) from the 12th day of fetal life until natural death, is a multipotential carcinogenic agent, inducing a significant increased incidence of lymphomas/leukemias in males and females and malignant mammary cancers in females. Furthermore, the study demonstrates that when lifespan exposure to APM begins during fetal life, its carcinogenic effects are increased (Environmental Health Perspectives Vol.115, n.9, pp. 1293-1297). Further studies on intense artificial sweeteners are currently in progress at the Cesare Maltoni Cancer Research Center, including on APM using rats and on sucralose (Splenda) using mice. Additional experiments on other intense natural and artificial sweeteners are planned for 2008. An update on the integrated program and preliminary results of the APM-Swiss mice experiment will be presented.”