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Study suggests link between aspartame and brain cancer


NutraSweet dismisses concerns

November 18, 1996
Web posted at: 12:30 p.m. EST

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Several consumer groups renewed their criticism of aspartame Monday, citing a new study suggesting a possible link between the artificial sweetener and brain tumors.

Aspartame is a low-calorie synthetic sweetener made up of two amino acids and methanol. It is sold under the brand names NutraSweet and Equal and is added to many food products as a sugar substitute.

The Community Nutrition Institute and the Centers for Science in the Public Interest called for more government tests on aspartame, which the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has previously defended as safe.


The renewed attention follows a medical study published this month in the Journal of Neuropathology and Experimental Neurology.

In the report, Dr. John Olney of Washington University in St. Louis says brain cancer rates in the United States jumped 10 percent shortly after NutraSweet was approved by the FDA for widespread use in 1983.

The reports says that while there's no proof aspartame is connected to the rise, the increase is suspicious, especially in light of an earlier study showing rats given aspartame developed an unusually high number of brain tumors.

The FDA and NutraSweet dismiss the concerns. They say brain tumor rates started going up before aspartame was put on the market and then leveled off.

Aspartame's defenders also offer a different interpretation of the rat studies, saying there were not any dramatic differences in the number of tumors between rats on aspartame and those that were not.


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