Don’t Drink a Dozen Diet Cokes a Day

Diet Coke and MentosThe WHO has taken its skill for exquisitely confusing messages on public health to new heights. One of its agencies, the IARC,  declared yesterday that aspartame is “possibly carcinogenic.” At the same time, a separate committee of WHO, the JECFA, reaffirmed that it’s no problem if a person consumes up to 40 mg per kg of body weight per day. For an average American woman, that’s about a dozen Diet Cokes.

So if you drink Diet Coke, don’t drink that much. OK?

“Not a Major Concern”

Presumably to integrate these divergent messages, the WHO Director of Nutrition and Food Safety, Francesco Branca, issued a statement with all the clarity of mud:

“The assessments of aspartame have indicated that, while safety is not a major concern at the doses which are commonly used, potential effects have been described that need to be investigated by more and better studies.”

FDA Elects to Comment

FDA seems to have detected the potential for confusion. So the agency took the unusual step of issuing a comment on the mixed messages from WHO:

“Aspartame is one of the most studied food additives in the human food supply. FDA scientists do not have safety concerns when aspartame is used under the approved conditions.”

Possibly trying to clean up this mess, FDA told reporters that yesterday’s report from WHO “does not mean that aspartame is actually linked to cancer.”

Science vs. Feelings

Bad feelings persist about aspartame and other low calorie sweeteners. Fine. But WHO should remember that bad feelings are no substitute for good science.

In sum, all the science tells us is don’t drink a dozen Diet Cokes a day.

Click here for the statement from WHO, here and here for further reporting. For additional perspective from ConscienHealth, click here and here.

Diet Coke and Mentos, photograph by Mike Murphy, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5

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July 14, 2023

One Response to “Don’t Drink a Dozen Diet Cokes a Day”

  1. July 14, 2023 at 8:05 am, Al Lewis said:

    This WHO assertion is crap. If hundreds of millions of people have been consuming this for 40 years and they are just now saying it’s a “possible” carcinogen, whatever the risk is (if any) is trivial and is likely outweighed by the risks of drinking sugared sodas or Splenda instead.